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I won't do things by half: Ulster's Pete Nelson

By Jonathan Bradley

While all eyes were on the long-awaited debut of Marcell Coetzee against Edinburgh last week, he was not the only Ulsterman making the first step on the comeback trail.

The burly Springbok's debut following an ACL injury he picked up while still at his former club in South Africa was the big ticket attraction in the bonus-point win, but Pete Nelson's less heralded return was actually longer in the making.

The 24-year-old sustained a serious foot injury in the final throes of 2015, spending 14 months on the sidelines in a lengthy rehab just when he looked set to stake a claim for a more regular place.

At the time of his setback, he was putting up his hand for regular minutes at out-half in the absence of Paddy Jackson, having originally been seen as a back-three player.

With Ulster again short of options in the No.10 jersey during an international window, Nelson was straight in from the start last week and will be hoping for the same when Les Kiss announces his team for tomorrow's clash with Glasgow Warriors at Kingspan Stadium (3pm kick-off) this afternoon.

"I was very excited to get back after that length of time," said the Dungannon native.

"I suppose there were a few nerves as well but going straight in at 10, there was no time to think about it. You're straight into it and I think it was a big help for me.

"I was a bit stiff and sore but I suppose that is to be expected after 14 months out and, to be honest, after any game you have that.

"I was just delighted to get out there and I'll take the bumps and bruises at this stage."

For all the excitement regarding Coetzee, there was plenty of goodwill in the stands for Nelson in appreciation of his long and arduous road back to PRO12 rugby.

After over a year on the sidelines, he admitted it had been a difficult journey but thanked the Ulster staff for their efforts to aid his recovery.

"It is tough," he said. "I suppose it is a cliché but you just have to take it day by day.

"Unfortunately there are guys injured with you all the time and you have just got to work day by day with them and focus on short-term goals and stuff like that.

"The medics and S&C (strength and conditioning) staff are very good here and looked after me really well.

"I was just focusing day to day and just seeing small progresses and pushing on like that.

"You just want to be out there. Whether the team is winning or losing you want to be there helping them out, it is very tough sitting up in the stands watching it every day.

"It is good here that you can still be involved with the team and you can still go into meetings, still analyse teams and help guys out in some way off the pitch, but ultimately as a rugby player you want to be out there."

Nelson, who made his first outings post-injury for Ballynahinch, hasn't always featured as regularly as he would have liked and has never made more than 10 appearances in a season for the senior side.

Before the setback, he was playing more minutes than ever and now hopes to pick up just where he left off.

"I don't think there is ever a good time to get injured but, from my own point of view, I was playing a lot and really enjoying my rugby," he said.

"I felt I was playing quite well and to get a foot injury at that stage was frustrating. Hopefully I can pick up where I left off and push on again.

"It is a massive block of games for us and it is important we take it one by one.

"We've Glasgow this week and if we put a string of performances together and get a few good wins we'll be back up in the mix."

The side will face a stern challenge against Glasgow, the team directly above them in the standings after last weekend's results.

Always severely depleted by Scotland call-ups at this time of year, Nelson still expects a tough encounter.

"I think they have massive ambitions for the PRO12," he said. "They are a great side and have huge strength in depth.

"They have a few players with the Scottish team, and some of them may be released this week, but even the players they have in the squad are very good and they will be very hungry after defeat last week to the Scarlets.

"They will be well up for it and it is a massive game for us.

"It is important this week we play for the full 80 minutes because that's what it'll take."

Belfast Telegraph


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