Bennett's grit is rewarded by a first-team place
PATIENT Paul Bennett has a real chance to prove his long-term Old Patesians prowess, believes Dan Eddie.
The imposing lock will start tomorrow's home clash with Malvern alongside 'pack centrepiece' James Stickland, in the absence of Gethin Evans, Nathan Riley and Josh Stephens.
Old Pats rugby director Eddie hailed Bennett's grit in biding his time for a first team chance, after impressing in the second XV all season.
Pats are gunning to hit back to victory at Everest Road tomorrow, after last weekend's galling 12-6 defeat at Redingensians.
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Lamenting two sloppy tries in Reading, boss Eddie has backed his side to turn in a clinical showing tomorrow.
Eddie explained: "It's a great opportunity for Paul, to show what he can do.
"He's been playing very well in the seconds and deserves this chance.
"Playing alongside James Stickland will definitely help, and it's his chance to show his abilities in a strong pack.
"Paul is a very physical guy who can play lock or back-row, he gets up off the line quickly and hits hard.
"He had a great pre-season, he got himself that bit fitter and had bulked up.
"But then he wasn't available for the first few matches, and missed an opportunity.
"He's had to wait for his chance since really, but he has it now, and I know he's excited by this weekend.
"He's a real athlete and we're excited about what he can do."
Scrum-half James Aherne will have a late fitness test on a groin strain, leaving versatile James Butler in the frame to slot in at half-back.
Butler is back at the club after leaving for Richmond in the summer when he moved to London.
Back in Cheltenham, Eddie is delighted to have the 'quality operator' on hand – and suggested Pats might even try to coax him into a positional shift.
He continued: "James Aherne is a doubt with groin trouble, so if he misses out then James Butler is a real option for us at scrum-half.
"James Butler played scrum-half against Barnstaple last season, and he was a real livewire.
"He can play anywhere really but has favoured centre.
"He started at Cheltenham, was with us for two or three years, then moved to London in the summer and was impressing at Richmond.
"He has come back to Cheltenham though, and he picked up the phone straight away to say he was coming back to us.
"And that's a real boost for us.
"We're quite well-served in the centres at the moment, so we really do want to have a look at James at nine.
"We think he can really compete well with James Aherne there, the two of them could have a good battle moving forward.
"It's another option we'd like to explore, and we're very interested to see how that develops.
"We've got some real firepower in this team this weekend, so hopefully we can pull out a good performance, and with it a good result too."