Victory for Nelson and Scotland Women’s Sevens squad

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

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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.

 

The winning Scotland Women Sevens squad, including local Lochaber player Helen Nelson, celebrate their success in Europe trophy tournament
The winning Scotland Women Sevens squad, including local Lochaber player Helen Nelson, celebrate their success in Europe trophy tournament

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 Europe 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.