Belfast Telegraph

Nelson is relishing a greater challenge as Ulster's No.10

By Michael Sadlier

Being the fifth choice out-half was hardly a ringing endorsement, but needs must and as things turned out, the first sighting of Peter Nelson wearing Ulster's No.10 shirt went rather well.

Yes, the 22-year-old - who is normally found at full-back or on the wing - had only been given his chance because Ulster found themselves bereft of a recognised out-half to take the field against the Ospreys.

It had been a gamble which just had to be taken but he proved to be an assured presence with some useful punting, distribution and, notably, a few decent tackles.

And Nelson - who has been around the squad since 2011 and had played 22 times for Ulster without ever being a regular - now gets another go at the Parc y Scarlets today and knows only too well that this will probably not be quite the same as he experienced against a pretty lacklustre Ospreys side.

Indeed, the point is made that his channel is bound to see some heavy traffic heading down it with Scarlets' John Barclay sure to have a trundle Nelson's way.

"I'll just have to play my game and make my tackles and hopefully the back-row will help me out a bit," said Nelson, who is hardly a rookie at this level even though he is playing in an unfamiliar position.

"You've got to expect that (forwards running straight at you) and a lot of teams target 10s in that channel and I'll expect a lot of traffic and hopefully I'll cope with it."

Of course, it's all part of the package anyway as Nelson has a decent skills-set which includes an obvious ability to tackle. On the face of it, he actually isn't such a bad fit at all at out-half as the former Ulster Academy graduate has played the position at both Royal School Dungannon and at club level for the Tyrone town.

"Yes, I'd played a lot of 10 at school and a little bit at the club but not professionally so it was still a bit of a shock whenever I was told where I was to play against the Ospreys," he said.

"But I knew the guys both inside (Paul Marshall) and outside me (Stuart McCloskey) would be a great help."

He can place-kick too but a groin niggle meant McCloskey took the kicks against the Ospreys and Nelson - who missed the conversion for Luke Marshall's bonus-point try as McCloskey had left the field - evades the issue of who will be doing it today, though you suspect that the hard-running centre will be reprising last week's role.

And while on the subject of Ulster's opening win, Nelson must surely have been somewhat uneasy at the potential for things to unravel at having to essentially bring game-management at a new level to his game.

"I was especially nervous going into this game. It was a big start (for me) and playing 10 added to that," he admitted.

"But as soon as the whistle went the nerves started to go away and to get the ball in your hands a few times definitely helped, plus the good start we got helped as well."

He has played at the Scarlets before and did so back in February 2012 when Ulster were narrowly defeated. Hardly an occasion which might have stuck in the memory.

"I just remember it being a very wet day," he said with a smile.

So, an opening has come his way, and one he didn't anticipate with Andrew Trimble, who misses out this afternoon with yet another injury, and Craig Gilroy surplus to World Cup requirements as well as Louis Ludik the starting full-back.

Nelson - who was part of the successful Emerging Ireland squad which won the Tbilisi Cup over the summer - is determined to make the most of it.

"I'm just happy to get out on the pitch and play any position and that's important for me. Wherever I'm put in, I'll play," Nelson concluded.

Well said.

Belfast Telegraph


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