Nel keen to capitalise on starting berth

On Wednesday Head Coach Gregor Townsend announced that one third of his starting Scotland side was to change ahead of the final round of the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations championship, when his team travel to face Italy in Rome this Saturday (17 March, kick-off 12.30pm) – live on ITV.

Among those five changes is Edinburgh Rugby prop Willem Nel [right], who returns to the Scotland starting line-up for the first time since the national team's opening Autumn Test win over Samoa.

Nel sat out most of the previous season with a neck injury but fought back to fitness in time for the autumn only to suffer a broken arm against the Pacific Islanders.

After replacement appearances against England and Ireland however, the South African-born forward is focusing on moving past his recent setbacks and is more determined than ever to make his starting opportunity in Rome count.

He said: “It’s been a tough season for me but I’m glad to be back and get another opportunity.

"I just need to go out there and perform for the team.

“If you get an opportunity like this you have to take it so I just look at what is in front of me.

"I’m just glad I have another opportunity to play for Scotland.”

Nel is well aware, however, that he has returned to the fold amidst intensified competition for the number three jersey.

Zander Fagerson returns to the bench in the same game, having recovered from a foot injury, Edinburgh prop Simon Berghan has played some of his best rugby in their stead this campaign, youngster Murray McCallum made his debut off the bench against Wales, in a game that Jon Welsh started.

Reflecting on the increased depth, Nel added: “I must say the boys have really stepped up and it’s great.

“The competition in the team brings out the best in us and you know you must perform because there’s always another guy behind you wanting to take your spot.

“There’s now three or four tightheads that can come in and do the same job. It means you must be at your best to keep that jersey and really does bring out the best in you.”

Italy have yet to win in the 2018 edition of the NatWest 6 Nations but must not be underestimated according to Nel.

“I think for us as team, rounding off this campaign with a victory is really important,” added Nel.

“We’ve been working hard behind the scenes and I know the guys who step up can do the job.

“They [Italy] have done well, especially in the pack, so there will be a big contest up front to break down and it’ll take a full 80 minutes to win.”