In our latest feature with members of the elite train-on squad for Wales’ men’s team ahead of Rugby League World Cup 2021, we speak to Gavin Bennion, who has joined League 1 side Rochdale Hornets for next season.
Bennion, who qualifies to play for Wales through heritage, earned his first cap at Rugby League World Cup 2017, featuring in the final group match against Ireland in Perth.
He then played an important part in the Dragons’ qualification for next year’s tournament, starring in all three European Championship clashes back in 2018 and scoring in the victory over Ireland at the Racecourse Stadium in Wrexham.
Having come through the academy at Super League club Warrington Wolves, the 26-year-old spent time on loan at both Featherstone Rovers and Swinton Lions.
After departing the Wolves, Bennion had permanent spells with Halifax and Rochdale, before making the step up to the top tier as he joined Salford Red Devils.
Following loan appearances with other clubs while at Salford, the prop made a permanent switch back to Swinton, where he has impressed over the last couple of seasons and scored an impressive number of tries in the forwards.
Ahead of 2021, he has linked up with former Swinton chairman Andy Mazey and signed a deal with Rochdale in League 1.
On his plans at club level, Bennion said: “I’m looking forward to going to Rochdale next year.
“I’m going to League 1 and a lot of people say you’re stepping down but, when you look at some of the teams and who they’ve signed, I think it’s going to be a really strong competition.
“With Ottawa there, you’ve got another strong competitor who’ll be looking for automatic promotion next season.
“When I made the decision to go from Championship to League 1, the fact it’s going to be a really strong competition has backed that up.
“The vision of the new board members at Rochdale was important for me. They’ve got big ambitions moving forward. We’ll be looking for those promotion spots along with some of the other clubs.
“I’m looking forward to getting out there and testing myself in that league.”
With the World Cup on the horizon, Bennion feels 2021 at club level will be a significant year for himself.
He said: “The standard of League 1 will only help me to put my case forward for Wales.
“I’ve been in the Wales squad for a couple of years now so they know what I’m all about.
“I’m really looking forward to the World Cup. It’s going to be a tough group – playing those teams week after week is going to be hard on the body – but it’ll be one of the best experiences of our careers.
“With the performances we put in against Scotland and Ireland in the European Championship, there can be no backward steps from here. We’ve set the standard high and we need to kick on.
“With the squad we’ve got, there’s potential for us to be a very good side for years to come.
“We can give this next World Cup a real good crack. We need to show some of the best teams in the world that we’re no pushovers, we can actually compete and we’re not simply there to be part of the tournament.
“I just want to perform well for Rochdale and put myself in the best possible position for the World Cup.”
Gavin Bennion’s Wales stats
- Caps: 4
- Matches won: 2, matches lost: 2
- Tries: 1, points: 4