'She is just such a good human being' - Tributes paid as hard working and determined Helen Nelson reaches 50 Scotland caps

Helen Nelson will earn her 50th Scotland cap versus Italy
©Rugby People

On Saturday, Helen Nelson will become the 27th Scottish female ever to reach 50 international caps and those that know her well - and the wider rugby community north of the border - are delighted for her.

In her teens, the Inverness-born stand-off/centre was a skier to a good level and that was her main sport, but she always enjoyed rugby after taking it up at grassroots club Lochaber when she was six.

And her family has a great rugby pedigree. Her auntie Clare Hoppe played for Ireland against Scotland in the first official Test match between the teams at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh in February 1993.

Hoppe sadly passed away last year, but she is always on Nelson’s mind and it was poignant to see the latter walking into the DAM Health Stadium before the Scotland-Wales match at the start of April clutching the match ball from that historic game three decades ago.

In more recent times, the Nelson siblings - Helen, Bryony and Robbie - have built a strong rugby legacy of their own with the sisters both having played for Scotland and Robbie having turned out for the Scotland Club XV before heading to Australia.

Over the years, Nelson has played senior rugby for Murrayfield Wanderers, the University of Edinburgh, Montpellier and current club Loughborough Lightning.

Since a 2016 debut against France, she has been a near ever-present in the Scotland XVs set-up and has also played sevens for her country.

She has had her ups and downs at the top level, but she never seems to get too flustered about things and is the epitome of the ultimate team player.

In late 2020, she showed her steely resolve under pressure when she nailed a touchline conversion to give Scotland a famous 13-13 draw with France at Scotstoun and off the pitch, she is always there for her squad mates to talk to.

So ahead of her milestone moment in round four of the TikTok Women’s Six Nations in Edinburgh this weekend, let’s hear from some who know the 28-year-old nicknamed ‘Nelly’ best…

"The family are all very proud of her"

As mentioned, Nelson’s sister Bryony is also a Scotland cap, having played against Canada in 2018, and she has enjoyed watching her sibling’s journey to this point.

"The family are all very proud of her," she said. "I think from a young age Helen had a strong sense of who she was and what she wanted in a quiet and determined way, so it doesn’t surprise me that she’s in a high-performance environment and trailblazing a sport which hasn’t been traditionally played by women and wasn’t especially popular in the area we grew up in.

"It also doesn’t surprise me that she’s winning her 50th cap and we know there’s a lot more to come from her and this group of players over the next few years.”

Nelson’s partner Hollie Davidson said: “Her commitment to the jersey and growing those around her is like no other. She has tirelessly put her body on the line for years and has been part of the development of the Scotland women’s team through some highs and some lows.

"To have only missed one cap since her debut due to sickness is testament to her determination and drive to play for Scotland."

"She deserves this 50th cap more than anybody”

Scotland head coach Bryan Easson has been a big fan of Nelson’s over the years and she is now his vice-captain: “I can’t speak highly enough of Helen, she’s such a good person to have around on and off the pitch for us. She is just such a good human being.

“She is very, very good at helping the youngsters integrate into our group while, from a performance point of view, her performances are just getting better week on week.

"She is vice-captain and she works very well with Rachel Malcolm. Rachel is a great captain, but Helen does such a good job alongside her and she deserves this 50th cap more than anybody."

When she played for the University of Edinburgh Nelson was coached by Claire Cruikshank and the pair have remained friends.

"I still remember clearly Nelly turning up to her first session at Edinburgh Uni," Cruikshank explained. "She had a real eye for a gap and, with her skiing background, a way of slaloming through defences!

"Reaching 50 caps is a fantastic achievement. She epitomises hard work, dedication and passion and can be so proud of herself to have reached this milestone."

"To have this moment in a home game will be really special for her"

Scotland hooker Lana Skeldon has been with Nelson every step of the way since 2016: "Helen is very driven," Skeldon said. "She is just so conscientious around her behaviours and sets an example.

"She is an extremely talented rugby player and she is one of the best 10/12s in the world in my opinion. She is a close friend, so I am just super happy for her and she thoroughly deserves 50 caps.

“I’ve been through her journey with the ups and downs, so to have this moment in a home game will be really special for her."

And winger Coreen Grant, Nelson’s roommate this week, added: “Nelly is a fantastic rugby player, she has such a wise rugby head on her shoulders.

"We are roomies this week, so I am so excited for her getting to 50 caps and it is great working with her because she sees things on the pitch well in advance and she is very good at marshalling the troops.

"Hopefully we can help her as a backline this weekend and I am sure she will be leading from the front, she always does."

As mentioned, Nelson never seems to get too flustered, but when she runs out onto the DAM Health Stadium pitch on Saturday to face Italy and then sings Flower of Scotland the emotions will, no doubt, be high.