5 Minutes With: Helen Nelson
Scotland’s vice-captain received her first cap for Scotland almost four years ago in an away fixture against France. She has since pulled on the thistle a further 23 times and we asked her how she has developed as a player since her first cap:
Quite a lot, if I think back to 2016. I was quite young and naïve to international rugby. My game understanding has improved, as has my game management. I have spent a lot of those caps playing at fly-half, so you have to be able to deal with pressure and think quickly. Overall, game management is a big one that has improved but obviously last year and this year, I have had the opportunity to play full time, so my skills have improved a lot as have my passing and kicking.
How much improvement have you seen in the squad in those three years as well?
Again, a massive change. Overall game understanding has come on a lot. Our game plan has developed, we are adding more and more layers and the way that we are playing is more intricate. Our skill level has also developed with our tackles and breakdowns becoming a lot more accurate in what we do. We are also making more passes than we ever have.
What about the mindset of the team?
We are in a really good place. Having Goose (Philip Doyle) come in has shaken things up and there is a really fresh feel. Everyone is on their toes and know that they have to work really hard to get their spot. We have that set goal of qualification next Autumn so we are on a path and everyone is really excited, and it is bringing us closer together to work for that common goal.
2019 has been a big year for you, tell us about the top moments:
It has been a bit of a whirlwind. Getting selected for the Barbarians was incredible. It was obviously off the back of the Six Nations and going to Hong Kong with Scotland Women 7s so it was really cool and it shows that Scotland Women are getting taken more seriously by the rest of the rugby world. It was an incredible week getting flown over to Colorado and to win in the last play of the game was a massive honour.
At Loughborough Lightning, you play and train alongside other Scotland Women players (Rachel Malcolm, Jenny Maxwell, Sarah Bonar and Rhona Lloyd), how does that help when you come into camp with Scotland?
It allows us the luxury of more playing and training time together and we know how each other thinks so we can anticipate what each other are going to do on the pitch. Having Jenny at 9, I would normally play 10 or 12 which are positions that obviously have a big link up with the scrum half sothat is really valuable. It is about getting to know each other a little bit more and being able to drive what we do at Scotland, drive each other on and bounce ideas off each other.
It isn’t just about playing with players from Scotland, you also play with some of the English players when you are at Loughborough. What will that be like when you are facing them in the Six Nations?
When we play against England it will be interesting because I obviously have quite a few teammates at Loughborough who all play for England. I play in between Emily Scarratt and Katy Daley-McLean at Loughborough. They are world class players and I am learning so much from them week on week. It will be good fun and slightly daunting to play against them. A good challenge!
What advice do you have for your Scotland teammate Annabel when she plays for the Barbarians at the end of the month?
Definitely to soak up the atmosphere and take in the everything as it will fly by. They are playing a double header with the men’s team as well so there will be some absolute rugby legends so definitle enjoy it and take in the experience as best as you can.