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Pressure is off Lightning ahead of Bristol clash, says Nelson

Helen Nelson believes the pressure is off Loughborough Lightning this evening when they tackle Bristol Bears at Ashton Gate (kick-off: 7.45pm).

The Scotland international makes her 50th appearance for the Club from full-back as Lightning go in search of a victory that will close the gap on their opponents and the top four.

Loughborough missed out on the opportunity to gain ground a fortnight ago when they conceded a late try to lose to Leicester Tigers.

Bristol also lost last time out to unbeaten Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby leaders Gloucester-Hartpury, placing extra focus on this fourth-versus-fifth encounter.

“We’re going into this with no pressure on us, it is very much on them,” said Nelson, who made her Lightning debut in September 2019.

“We are focusing on ourselves, we weren’t happy with that performance against Tigers, we are focusing on that and we are excited to get out there at Ashton Gate and put that right.”

Helen Nelson

This evening’s fixture will be the second time that Bristol have hosted a game at Ashton Gate this season, and with the game being televised live on TNT Sport, it gives further evidence of the growth of the women’s game.

“The exposure we’re getting through TNT on the TV is fantastic but also playing in the big stadiums. There’s a lot of promotion going on to get bums on seats as well, it is a really exciting time.

“The difference it makes having a busy stadium and all your fans like we have on that side at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens, it is great it gives us that extra little bit of energy.”

Bristol came out on top in November’s reverse fixture at the Gardens, scoring eight tries on their way to a 46-17 victory. Since that loss, Lightning’s defence has seen big improvements and Nelson sees that being key to determining the winner of tonight’s game.

She said: “Defensively we’re going to try and put a lot of pressure on them. They’re obviously a team that likes to go edge to edge, and throw the ball around. If we get our defensive sets right, I think that is where the game can really be won or lost.”

Nelson goes into the match as one of Lightning’s five representatives in the extended Scotland squad ahead of the Six Nations, along with Christine Belisle, Rachel Malcolm, Emma Wassell and Chloe Rollie.

She added: “When you get to play with your club teammates but also national teammates as well, it makes a big difference week on week. Just building those connections and we’ve got the same schedules, going up and down for camps, I love playing with the girls here.

“We are a team that is growing in confidence and that investment is now starting to show itself more. We have got a lot of good young girls coming through from that Celtic Challenge too.

“We’re definitely still on a journey, but we are closing the gap on the likes of England and France. It is a really exciting Six Nations for us, we’ve got England and France at home and then the three away games are definitely winnable games, so we will get after it.”

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