Six Nations: WP Nel a 'stronger person' after injury setbacks

Scotland prop WP Nel has been forced to overcome several injury setbacks. Paul Harding/PA Images via Getty Images

WP Nel believes he returns to the Scotland starting lineup a stronger person as he continues to put a 'tough two years' of injury setbacks behind him.

Following substitute appearances against both England and Ireland, Nel will earn his first Six Nations start in two years when Gregor Townsend's squad travel to Italy this weekend.

The South African-born prop's future in the game had been cast in doubt after he missed most of last season after undergoing surgery on a neck injury which threatened to bring his career to an end.

Despite aggravating the same problem at the start of the current PRO14 season, the Edinburgh forward recovered in time to represent his country for the autumn Tests but suffered a broken arm in the first half of the series opener against Samoa.

"I must say there were tough times, especially with the neck thing, that was my biggest thing," said Nel. "The arm can happen any time, whatever, but it's been a tough two years.

"It's mentally made me stronger, I've worked harder and I feel I'm in a better place than I was two years back, so there's positives and there were some negatives, but it's just looking ahead now and putting all the injuries behind me and look at the job moving forward.

"It's a front-row neck injury, so there were a lot of things running through my mind, that's true, and I wondered if I would ever come back as good as I've been or even better."

Although the broken arm represented the latest in a long line of injury problems, the prop, 31, was able to recover quickly and force his way back into Townsend's plans

"It felt like something was going on having played 10 years without injuries and just a couple of clean-ups," he admitted. "But it's rugby, you can't really choose when you want to get injured, it's just what happened, it's life and it's what you make of it.

"Are you going to come back just to be back or are you going to come back stronger and challenge for that three jersey or whatever you want to challenge for?"

The Press Association contributed to this report