Belfast Telegraph

Ulster's Peter Nelson relishing his chance to impress in a season filled with landmark moments

 

Fighting fit: Peter Nelson is enjoying his rugby again after a series of injuries
Fighting fit: Peter Nelson is enjoying his rugby again after a series of injuries
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

Having already hit the half-century mark of Ulster appearances this season, Pete Nelson is all set for another landmark against the Dragons in Newport on Sunday.

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If selected by head coach Dan McFarland for the trip to Rodney Parade (3pm kick-off), then it will be the 11th time the Dungannon man has pulled on the jersey this season, a new high mark for a single campaign.

Now 26-years-old, the versatile back made his debut as a 19-year-old during the festive interpros of 2011/12, representing Ireland Under-20s alongside the likes of Iain Henderson, Chris Farrell, Tadhg Furlong and Tadhg Beirne later that same campaign.

Injuries have hampered his progress since - the most serious of which a foot problem which kept him out of action for 14 months between December 2015 and February 2017 - but he's slotted back in impressively over the past two games.

For Nelson, simply being out there again is reason for cheer.

"I was out for a long time, and when I got back playing from that I said to myself 'you have to enjoy every minute of it' because when you're out for so long, you miss it, you really do," he says. "I'm really enjoying my rugby at the moment and I'm happy out there.

"I've had a good run. My body's feeling good and I've been involved quite a bit. I want to play as much as I can. The more you play, the more opportunities you get, the more comfortable you feel out there and the more confidence you have in your game.

"I'm happy to be getting a bit of game time and it's gone alright the last couple of weeks. I enjoyed the Ospreys game, it was a lot different to the weekend (against Zebre) but I thought there was still a lot of good play in it. We just probably didn't put away a lot of our chances.

"Defensively it was a very strong game and then at the weekend it was a lot freer, we could throw the ball about a bit and scored a few nice tries."

In those two games mentioned, Nelson started at full-back and then out-half, required to show a different skill-set in each. While ten remains his favourite position - England World Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson was a childhood hero - he is happy to pitch in where required.

"I enjoy playing both roles so I'm happy to do it," he said.

"We all have our homework to do, we spend a lot of time at computers, but the whole squad know our roles, our patterns and our plays inside out.

"Covering two positions, it's a bit tougher, but I guess a lot of people cover different positions at the minute. With ten there's obviously a little bit more detail to learn there but I don't mind that, I enjoy it."

Enjoy is not often a word Ulster associate with their trips to Newport despite the Dragons often struggling in the league.

The side required a last gasp Christian Leali'ifano try to rescue an untidy draw last season but haven't lost there since the 2014/15 campaign.

Only Zebre have banked less Guinness PRO14 points than the Welsh region this season and they were beaten by 50 against a Benetton side minus their Italian internationals last weekend.

Their four league wins have all come at home though, and they've taken the scalps of play-off chasers Edinburgh and Ospreys, as well as pushing Munster close.

"Rodney Parade is a tough place to go to," warned Nelson.

"It's a tough place to get a good win and I think they'll be very physical. They're coming off a big defeat last weekend so they'll be up for it. It'll be a lot tougher this week."

Dragons vs Ulster

Guinness PRO14 Championship

Rodney Parade, Sunday, 3.00pm

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