Vic­tory for Nel­son and Scot­land Women’s Sev­ens squad in Europe

The Oban Times - - Times Sport - MARK ENTWISTLE men­twistle@oban­

IT IS a long way from play­ing rugby as a six-year- old with Lochaber mi­nis to a star­ring role in the Scot­land Women Sev­ens Euro­pean tro­phy-win­ning squad, but it is a jour­ney in­ter­na­tional cen­tre He­len Nel­son be­lieves any girl can make with ded­i­ca­tion and com­mit­ment.

A prod­uct of Glen­coe Pri­mary and Kin­lochleven High School, 23-year- old Nel­son played a ma­jor role in the Scot­land Women’s Sev­ens vic­tory at this month’s Rugby Europe Tro­phy in Hun­gary which saw the team gain pro­mo­tion to the Grand Prix cir­cuit for 2018.

The Scot­tish women saw off Malta, Fin­land and the Czech Repub­lic in the tour­na­ment’s first round in the Czech Repub­lic last month, with Mur­ray­field Wan­derer Nel­son bag­ging two tries, while Oban’s Abi Evans also crossed the white­wash for a touch­down.

Then it was off to Hun­gary for round two and the squad, coached since April by Mel­rose’s for­mer in­ter­na­tional Scott Wight, kept up its win­ning ways, trounc­ing Latvia 50- 0, then Ro­ma­nia 32- 0 in the last four and then com­fort­ably putting Ger­many to the sword in the fi­nal by 33-5.

Re­turn­ing to the Rugby Europe Grand Prix for next year puts Scot­land Women sev­ens closer to the long-term goal of qual­i­fy­ing for the HSBC Women’s Sev­ens Se­ries and the Com­mon­wealth Games in 2022.

Nel­son is one of three play­ers to emerge from the ju­nior ranks in Lochaber to be capped for Scot­land, the oth­ers be­ing Rachael Whyte (nee Ni­col­son) and Ed­in­burgh Univer­sity’s Katie Dougan.

Nel­son first took up the game aged just six at Lochaber Rugby Club along­side brother Rob­bie, who now plays for BT Pre­mier­ship side Currie; sis­ter Bry­ony also plays rugby and turns out for Ed­in­burgh side Wat­so­ni­ans.

Nel­son told us it had been an amaz­ing feel­ing win­ning the Rugby Europe Tro­phy. ‘It was a great group of play­ers along with Scott as the coach - we al­ways knew we were ca­pa­ble of per­form­ing well, it was just about mak­ing sure we worked hard in train­ing and stuck to our pro­cesses dur­ing the tour­na­ments. Win­ning in a Scot­land shirt is one of the best feel­ings.

‘We came to­gether as a sev­ens squad in April and had a week­end camp every month, along with weekly skills ses­sions and a week-long camp in May. All based at Oriam.

‘The ses­sions were tough, but it def­i­nitely paid off train­ing at a high in­ten­sity, it means you’re ready for the tour­na­ments.

‘As a group we pushed each other to be as fit and as pre­pared as we could be. Scott had a very clear way which he wanted us to play, have fun with ball in hand and work very hard in de­fence. It seemed to work well for us.’

And Nel­son paid trib­ute to the sup­port she has had from her for­mer Lochaber club. ‘I haven’t played rugby in the High­lands for a few years now, but try to visit Lochaber Rugby Club when I can. They have been re­ally sup­port­ive of both my­self and Katie Dougan play­ing for Scot­land Women.

‘I think rugby is a sport more girls should try, and it should be as ac­ces­si­ble as pos­si­ble, so school be­ing the ob­vi­ous place. From what I have heard, girls’ club rugby is go­ing from strength to strength in the High­lands.’

Lochaber RFC pres­i­dent Alas­tair MacK­in­non says ev­ery­one at the Banavie ground is de­lighted with Nel­son’s suc­cess.

‘It is fan­tas­tic to see and we’re all very proud of He­len and what she has achieved, as we are of Rachael and Katie also,’ he told the Lochaber Times this week.

Nel­son made her Scot­land Women’s Sev­ens de­but in the first leg of the 2016 Rugby Eu- rope Women’s Sev­ens Tro­phy in Prague. This fol­lowed her first ap­pear­ance for Scot­land Women off the bench against France at Broad­wood Sta­dium in the 2016 Six Na­tions.

For­mer Lochaber player He­len Nel­son on the charge in the first round of the re­cent Rugby Europe Tro­phy.

He­len Nel­son with the rest of the Scot­land squad who lifted the Women’s Rugby Europe Tro­phy in Hun­gary re­cently.

Oban’s Abi Evans was also in the squad.

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