WP Nel relishes locking horns with friend and foe Bill Mata
Scotland prop WP Nel is looking forward to a Test match in which he will have familiar faces not only behind him in the scrum but also facing the opposite direction as he packs down against Edinburgh team-mate and No 8 Bill Mata when the Scots take on Fiji at Murrayfield on Saturday.
Mata has become a firm fans’ favourite at the capital pro team and was man of the match again with a two-try performance against the Scarlets in the Guinness Pro14 last Friday.
“He’s an excellent player – he’s playing well for Edinburgh and he’ll play well for Fiji - but you can’t just focus on Bill on Saturday, it’s the whole squad. They’re all dangerous players,” said tighthead Nel.
“He’s a good player and we must look out for him. But like every player he needs to man up for the game.”
Nel accepts that he and the tight forwards have an important task in shackling the dangerous, free-wheeling instinct of the islanders on Saturday.
“If you look at Fiji then you definitely don’t want to give them too much ball to play with,” said Nel. “We’ll have a good focus on the set pieces, see how we can disrupt their ball and take the ball away from them.”
Nel, 32, baulked when it was suggested he was, in the absence of Ross Ford who has been released this week, the senior man in the squad.
“No, Greeg [Laidlaw] is older than me. Please,” said Nel in reference to the 33-year-old scrum-half.
Nel is getting back to his best after a bad run of neck and arm injuries and added: “For me, I think I’ve learned a lot from when I arrived here. It’s memory now, it’s just happened. It’s not like you don’t have to practise, but if you go into games you know your process now.
“When I came back from injury I was so processed it just came back naturally to me.
“I don’t know what’s the best or when I will be the best – I just want to be the best in the position that I am at this moment and doing a good job for the team. Injuries happen, so for me it’s just about trying to get back to where I would like to be. At this moment, everything goes well and I feel good with where I am.
“I can’t say if I am there or if I would ever be there [back to pre-injury form]. At this moment all I can do is try to be the best I can be in terms of what I can bring to the team. I just have to work hard and if I’m as good as I was or even better then I will take it.”