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Duhan van der Merwe's Six Nations is over

By PA
(Photo by Ross Parker/SNS Group via Getty Images)

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Scotland wing Duhan van der Merwe is out of the rest of the Guinness Six Nations after receiving a three-week ban from the Rugby Football Union. The 26-year-old received a red card for reckless or dangerous play during Worcester’s defeat at London Irish in the Gallagher Premiership on Saturday. The ban rules him out of Scotland’s remaining games with Italy and Ireland.

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Jeremy Summers, chair of the independent disciplinary panel who heard the case, said: “The player had sufficient time and opportunity to have executed a lawful hand-off but failed to do so. The contact he then made to an opponent’s head was direct, at speed and involved a leading forearm, all of which are factors pointing to high danger and a red card in the World Rugby Head Contact Process.

“No low danger or mitigating factors were present and, whilst some may feel it resulted in a harsh outcome, the referee correctly applied the HCP.”

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The rest of the Scotland squad will head to Rome knowing the title is out of reach, but there is no chance of Mark Bennett treating Saturday’s showdown as a meaningless fixture.

The 29-year-old Edinburgh centre feared his international career was over after he drifted out of the picture following his 22nd cap against USA in June 2018. After a strong start to the current campaign with his club, he was called back into the Scotland fold for the Autumn Tests but did not feature due to injury.

However, having waited more than three-and-a-half years, he finally got back on the pitch for his country as a replacement in last month’s defeat by France. He is now desperate to continue his international renaissance in Rome this weekend. “Getting back in the team has been something I’ve been gunning for over the last few years and I’ve not been able to achieve it, so getting back out there against France was incredible,” he said. “I absolutely loved it so if I get the opportunity again this weekend, it’s another one I’ll savour.”

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Bennett admits the Scots will have to tame a partisan home crowd in the Stadio Olimpico if they are to reignite their Six Nations campaign following back-to-back defeats against Wales and France. “It’s a great place to play rugby,” he said.

“The Italian crowd is always very passionate. We’ve got to start fast and not let them get wind in their sails because they’re a side who, when they get on top of you and get momentum, will gain confidence. We need to find a way to stop that.”

Bennett insists Scotland still have plenty to play for in their last two matches against Italy and Ireland despite the deflating effect of losing two of their opening three matches. “We’re aiming to finish the tournament with back-to-back wins,” he said.  “We’ve got to win this weekend and that’s the most important game at the moment. We’re up against a good side so we’ve got make sure we’re prepped for it.

“If you look at the last few games, we’ve potentially missed a few opportunities. We’re disappointed about a few things we let go in the France game and we want to rectify that. As a backline, we’re really excited about the opportunity this weekend to come out and show what we’ve got. We want to make amends.”

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