Bentley set to start Cornish Pirates' challenging Blues clash
Cornish Pirates fly-half Jonny Bentley will end a 17-month injury absence by starting his side's Championship fixture against Bedford Blues on Sunday at Mennaye Field.
A torn Achilles tendon has kept the Kiwi out of action for more than a year, but he is set to return at a crucial time in Pirates' season.
The sixth-placed Penzance club are still chasing a top-four play-off place in the Championship and take on Munster in the quarter-finals of the British and Irish Cup next week.
Pirates' assistant coach Harvey Biljon said: "Jonny is going to be playing his first game back in a long time. He is going to be starting the fixture but he will be time restricted because of the injury.
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"He is very excited himself and can't wait to go out there and play some rugby. We should take the pressure off and let him go out there and enjoy it rather than expect too much, as if he had played 20 or 30 games this season."
Both sides will be short of match fitness this weekend. The Pirates' last game was the 17-14 win over Moseley on March 10. Bedford, meanwhile, suffered a narrow defeat to Newcastle Falcons two days earlier in their last outing.
Pirates were due to face Rotherham Titans last weekend before bad weather intervened.
Biljon said: "It has been a bit different for the squad with the schedules turned upside down with travelling, waiting on fixtures and training days being built in.
"Overall, I think there is a lot of excitement that a game is finally going to be played. We know how tough a challenge Bedford are going to be but we hope we can put on a performance in front of our home supporters.
"We know they are a top side. Games between us and Bedford have always been very competitive. It is coming to that stage of the season where we need to be prepared and we have got our game plan.
"We are also preparing for the British and Irish Cup game against Munster, so players will want to go out and perform because they want to be in the shirt and playing in a quarter-final the following week.
"All we can do is control the things that our within our power. We will just worry about ourselves and, depending on permutations with other games, we have still got opportunities."
As well as Bentley's return, there are also potential landmarks appearances for prop Paul Andrew and scrum-half Tom Kessell.
Biljon said: "Paul is also playing his 100th game for the club and we shouldn't forget Tom Kessell could be playing his 50th, should he start or come off the bench this weekend."
Biljon also believes the Pirates' injury list is slowly beginning to shorten. He said: "In the backs we are starting to get there now. Players are coming back and are healthy again and that makes a big difference in training, having some numbers out there.
"We have a small squad, we know that and we have to manage it. Laurie McGlone has been passed fit and there will be a couple of other late fitness tests. When you lose experienced players, it is always going to be difficult for everyone involved."