Huw Bennett says it's good to be back in action after making his first appearance since undergoing surgery back in May, when he came off the bench during the win over Connacht last Friday evening.
The 26 year old hooker, who is fast approaching a century of Ospreys caps, underwent a minor procedure to correct a problem in his shoulder at the end of last season, and after sitting out the two pre-season fixtures against Leeds Carnegie and Gloucester, his presence amongst the replacements in Galway for the season opener came as a surprise to many, if not to Bennett himself.
As the Wales international explained, while he had hoped to return a week or two earlier, it was important to manage his comeback properly to ensure his shoulder can stand up to the rigours of a long season, and he says that he’ll take great confidence from surviving his first half hour of rugby action this season:
“Just coming off the bench was great, just to get a bit of confidence back. I took quite a big hit on the shoulder, so it was pleasing to take that hit and come through it with the shoulder feeling good, that’s good for the confidence. It’s just a matter of managing my way back and not rushing into it too soon as obviously, for a hooker a good shoulder is pretty important, and it’s a long season. I wouldn’t want to rush back into full action to soon, when I wasn’t ready, so it’s good that I’m being gently managed back into the swing of things.
“The operation was nothing too serious, it was just a tidy up, the problem had been there literally since the second game last season against the Blues, and was just something that was hindering me a bit in training. I couldn’t really do much upper body weights, but it wasn’t stopping me playing. It wasn’t really a concern, it was just a matter of getting it done at the end of the season, to enable me to be playing again this season unhindered.
“The coaches, with the medical team, decided to leave the two warm-up games, as we would have been rushing it a bit, but it was nice to be involved in the first competitive match and get some good game time under my belt and I’m pleased to say that my fitness and the shoulder came through it well.”
A 19-12 win at the Sports Ground enables the Ospreys to start the season positively, and they will be looking to build on that victory against Ulster at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday night. According to Bennett, it was vital that the region got off to a winning start against Connacht, but he believes that there is plenty of room for improvement when the Ospreys face the Ulstermen. He said:
“It’s always hard to go out to Connacht, especially the first game of the season. We won out there last year but I don’t think our record is the best there over the years. The first competitive game of a new season is always difficult, whoever you are playing, home or away. Both teams are really looking to make the right impression, there are new players, new strategies and gameplans, so it’s nice to come away from there with a win.
“We’ve got a new outlook here with Scott Johnson and there’s been a lot of work done in training, and it always takes time to get things working as the coaches would want to. Not everything worked on Friday, but a lot of new facets that he’s brought in did, which was nice to see. The focus this week has been on reviewing the performance and identifying where we need to improve, then putting that right on the pitch ahead of the Ulster match.
“It’s pretty exciting at the moment, building up towards the first home game of the season and we want to carry on from where we left off last week, on the front foot. There’s a good mood in the squad and we want to produce a good performance at the Liberty in front of a big crowd, to keep momentum going for the long season in front of us.”