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Edinburgh on the hunt for a prop after confirming WP Nel retirement

By Bryn Palmer
WP Nel of Scotland looks dejected after the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between Ireland and Scotland at Stade de France on October 07, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Julian Finney - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Edinburgh head coach Sean Everitt admits the club is in the market for tighthead reinforcements after revealing Scotland prop WP Nel’s 12-year stint with the capital side is coming to an end.

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It was only last week that Nel, who turns 38 next month, indicated he would be comfortable with retiring as he pondered whether to continue beyond the current campaign.

Everitt confirmed he would have liked Nel to play on for one more season, but it appears the player has now decided the time is right to hang up his boots.

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RugbyPass revealed Edinburgh have already spoken to Northampton’s former England tighthead Paul Hill about moving north this summer as they look to fill the void created by Nel’s impending retirement.

“We’ve been looking at options at tighthead because of the retirement of WP Nel,” Everitt said on Tuesday. “We’ve also looked at replacements for [No.8] Bill Mata who is going to be leaving us [for Bristol]. So we’ve had talks with quite a few players and we’re in negotiations with them but there’s nothing finite at this stage.”

Nel, who joined Edinburgh from the Cheetahs in 2012, became only the third player to reach 200 appearances for the club when he started last Saturday’s URC defeat by Stormers in Cape Town.

He has also won 61 caps for Scotland – joint-third for a prop in the nation’s history – since qualifying via residency in 2015, coming off the bench in all four of their World Cup pool matches last year before a neck issue hampered his availability for the Six Nations.

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“He’s had a good innings and a long innings,” Everitt said. “We’d have loved for him to stay on for another year and he’s been toying with this decision for some time. He enjoys the club, he enjoys Edinburgh as a city but at the end of the day, at some stage someone will wake up in the morning and say, ‘I think I’ve had enough’.

“So it looks like it could be his swan-song. That hasn’t been cast in stone but we’ve got to be proactive in how we look for our players and if there are tightheads available, we’ll certainly have a chat with them because we want to have the strongest available squad next year.”

Nel said before his landmark 200th appearance last week he would have no problem with ending his playing career, adding: “I’ve done more than enough. I’ve achieved over and above what I ever thought I would.”

The prop has started 11 of Edinburgh’s 16 games this season, including their last seven, and Everitt believes he is “in better shape now than he was in his first few years at the club”.

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He backed the 37-year-old to continue locking the scrum until the end of the season as the Scottish outfit chase a URC play-off place and look to advance in the European Challenge Cup, with a last-16 meeting with Bayonne following Saturday’s URC encounter with the Sharks in Durban.

“He enjoys what he’s doing and enjoying the game of rugby but he knows the time is drawing near,” Everitt said.

“He’s still getting around the field and playing as well as he has when he was 25. I’m sure he doesn’t feel that way on a Sunday but there’s never a Monday he shirks training. He trains every Monday and every Tuesday and every Thursday.

“Normally guys at his age get a reprieve from training on Mondays and Tuesdays because of their performance on Saturday but as long as he’s fit, he wants to train.”

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While Everitt seeks to bolster his options at tighthead and No.8 for next season, the head coach is optimistic of retaining the services of Scotland scrum-half Ali Price, who arrived in November on loan from Scottish rivals Glasgow for the rest of the season.

Price, who will remain in Scotland this week after his wife gave birth to their first child on Tuesday, is believed to be a target for French club Perpignan, but Everitt is keen to extend the British and Irish Lion’s stay in the capital. 

“The opportunity hasn’t passed,” he said. “We see Ali as a vital cog in our team going forward and we’d love to keep him in Edinburgh. We are still in talks with Ali with regards to 24/25.”

Everitt added that Scotland lock Grant Gilchrist will miss Saturday’s clash with Sharks for personal reasons, but that wing Duhan van der Merwe, prop Pierre Schoeman, hooker Ewan Ashman and flanker Jamie Ritchie – who were all rested for the Stormers fixture after returning from Six Nations duty – would be in contention for the second leg of their mini South African tour.

A late decision will be made on Argentine full-back Emiliano Boffelli, who picked up a nerve problem in his back last week which forced him to withdraw from the side thumped 43-21 in Cape Town.

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1 Comment
b
bob 116 days ago

One of my favourite players and among the best in the world at his trade.
A credit to the game.

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