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Nelson eager to steer his Ulster career back on track

By Jonathon Bradley

Having endured something of a lost year last season, Ulster's Peter Nelson is relishing his return to the fold under new coach Neil Doak.

A breakthrough campaign in 2012/13 saw the utility back, equally comfortable at wing or fullback, make nine appearances between November and the season's end.

Indeed, it was his try against Benetton Treviso that spared Ulster's blushes when they scraped past the Italians 16-15 in only his second PRO12 start.

Seemingly set to fully integrate himself into the senior squad last year, the academy graduate instead found himself out in the cold during Mark Anscombe's final season in charge.

For someone who had made his first Ulster appearance, albeit in a pre-season friendly, just a few months after sitting his A-Levels, the stalling of his progress was becoming something of a concern.

However, with Anscombe deposed and Doak now Ulster's head coach, Nelson is back in favour and, having made his first start in over 18 months against the Dragons at the beginning of this month, the 22-year-old is set to be involved again when the table-topping Ospreys visit the Kingspan Stadium on Friday evening.

Recalling his exasperating year, the former Ireland under-19 international said: "It was a little bit frustrating but I knew I just had to keep training hard and I knew that eventually I'd get my chance.

"You just want to get on and whenever you get on you need to take your chances.

"It was great to be involved against the Dragons and hopefully I can build on that and play as many games as possible.

"I hadn't been involved for a while so it was good.

"I thought it went okay and I was pleased with that so I just want to keep going forward from there.

"I'd love to get involved again and I'm really looking forward to the weekend.

"If I get another opportunity, I'll be looking to take it."

Nelson could be one of a number of squad players given a run out on Friday as both injuries and an IRB Test window take their toll.

Ulster will certainly be missing Rory Best and Tommy Bowe thanks to Ireland's meeting with Australia on Saturday, while Craig Gilroy may also be required by national coach Joe Schmidt, but it is unclear as of yet which of the remaining international contingent will be made available for club duty.

The Ospreys, meanwhile, have six players in the Wales squad named by Warren Gatland yesterday to face the All Blacks at the weekend and Josh Matavesi could feature for Fiji against the USA.

While both squads will be weakened, Nelson is sure that it will still be a hugely competitive contest.

"They've been going very well at the top of the table so it's a massive game for us," he said.

"There's guys in and out (with Ireland), and you're never quite sure who you're going to have, but training has been going really well.

"We know they're a quality team. There'll be a couple of faces that we're not sure about, but we've just been looking at how they've been throughout the whole season and we're prepared for whatever they throw at us.

"They're a very physical pack and they're going to come hard at us in the backs.

"They've big wingers so it'll be important to chop them down early.

"We'll need massive work-rate off the ball, and that goes for everybody, but especially in the back three."

Having had to battle his way back into contention, that is one area where Nelson surely won't be lacking.

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