Steve Scott tips WP Nel to make World Cup impact

EDINBURGH Rugby assistant coach Steve Scott believes prop WP Nel can make a big impact for Scotland in the Rugby World Cup.
WP Nel will be aiming to make the Scotland No 3 jersey his own ahead of the World Cup. Picture: SNS/SRUWP Nel will be aiming to make the Scotland No 3 jersey his own ahead of the World Cup. Picture: SNS/SRU
WP Nel will be aiming to make the Scotland No 3 jersey his own ahead of the World Cup. Picture: SNS/SRU

Scott, a former hooker himself who earned 11 caps for Scotland between 2000 and 2004, has worked with South African-born Nel for the last two seasons at the capital-based club.

He believes the 29-year-old keeps getting better and better and will give something extra to Vern Cotter’s team should he make the cut from the extended squad for the showpiece event in September and October.

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“Project” signing Nel is likely to make his Scotland debut in the World Cup warm-up Tests in August and early September and, with Euan Murray having retired, he will want to make the dark blue number three jersey his own going forward.

“I think the timing for WP Nel to be joining up with Scotland is perfect. I have been working with him hard over the last couple of years and his scrummaging really has improved massively,” Scott, 40, said. “As a unit the whole Edinburgh pack has improved and that has helped WP move on his game a lot. WP will go well at the World Cup, he is a great athlete and gets around the park well.”

Last season Nel’s Edinburgh team-mates Ben Toolis and Hamish Watson pushed their way into the Scotland squad and earned first caps during the Six Nations.

Scott knows that the second-row and back-row respectively will find it tricky to make the final 31-man squad, but knowing the types of determined characters they are he expects them to keep pushing their more experienced team-mates hard.

He explained: “Ben Toolis has done an outstanding job for one so young.

“To take on so much responsibility last season with Edinburgh and to call lineouts in top competitions meant that he deserved his Scotland cap.

“The only thing for Scotland is they have real strength in depth in the second-row position, but Ben has got a chance to make the World Cup.

Hamish is a phenomenal athlete. His work rate is second to none and he certainly has a chance with Scotland. I think his progress has been helped by having someone as good as Roddy Grant in the same position pushing him at Edinburgh.”

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Turning his attention to club matters, Scott believes that head coach Alan Solomons is definitely the right man to continue taking Edinburgh forward.

“Alan said from the start [in 2013] that the Edinburgh job was going to be a work in progress and he needed to build things up,” Scott stated.

“He has been true to his word, he has built a club through the young players like Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Ben Toolis, Hamish Watson and others and I think this season we will see the likes of Chris Dean and Damien Hoyland coming through and Alan has a real plan.

“We took a big step up in quality last year and made strides, but we still have a long way to go and these are exciting times at Edinburgh.

“If you look back two or three years ago we did not have the depth of squad that we have now – you need depth if you are to compete in two big competitions like we were doing last year.”

Scott was speaking after it was announced that he would be one of eight up-and-coming coaches to undertake a new coaching qualification.

The United Kingdom Coaching Certificate (UKCC) Level 4 will be delivered for the first time in Scotland, in partnership with Edinburgh Napier University and sportscotland.

Scott is joined by Kenny Murray (Glasgow Warriors), Ben Fisher (Edinburgh Academy Skills Coach, Boroughmuir and Scotland under-18), John Dalziel (Melrose and Scotland under-20), Phil Smith (Heriot’s, Glasgow Academy and Scotland Club XV), Calum Forrester (Ayr and Scotland under-19), Stevie Lawrie (Heriot’s, Stewart’s Melville College and Scotland under-16) and Andrew Hall (Hong Kong) in starting the two-year course next month.

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His own coaching journey began when he was still a player at the Border Reivers – and Scott has been learning ever since.

He said: “When I was playing at the Borders I was working as head coach at Selkirk.

“After the Borders, I could have gone to play at Glasgow, but there were about six hookers there at the time, so I decided to start working at Murrayfield with the Scottish Rugby academy players.

“Then I worked with the national team with Mike Brewer and then the opportunity came to head to Sale Sharks with him. I was there for just over two and a half years and then came back to work with the national team during the Six Nations with Dean Ryan.

“I then stepped in to be Edinburgh head coach for five or six games when Michael Bradley left and I have been here ever since under Alan over the last couple of seasons.”