Helen Nelson says the awarding of professional contracts for a second year does not put any additional pressure on Scotland during the Guinness Women's Six Nations. 

Instead, she insists the squad is in a good place and relishing the opportunity to test themselves during the championship, which kicks off with a trip to Cardiff on Saturday.  

Nelson was part of the team that went into last year’s championship off the back of nine consecutive defeats, a run that worsened further with losses to England, Wales and France.  

Their fortunes since have been in stark contrast with wins over Italy and Ireland backed up by a friendly victory over Spain, then the WXV2 triumph as Bryan Easson’s team defeated South Africa, USA and Japan.  

While results were not coming during that 12-match losing streak, fly-half Nelson believes the squad are now seeing the benefits of the work they put in behind the scenes.  

“Those 12 loses were tough, but we were working hard and we were building through that time.  

“The depth we have now got coming through from the Celtic Challenge, a lot of new youngsters are adding to the environment and then you blend that with the experience in the squad. I think we are in a really good place.” 

Scotland Rugby News: Helen Nelson is expected to start at fly-half for Scotland in CardiffHelen Nelson is expected to start at fly-half for Scotland in Cardiff (Image: SNS)

Nelson, who will again be vice-captain to Loughborough Lightning team-mate Rachel Malcolm, said there were some difficult conversations during the losing run last year.  

“You have to have those conversations,” she said.  

“Being part of a losing team is so difficult because you are doing positive things but are sometimes coming out on the wrong side by a couple of points then that review is tough.  

“Coaches look at themselves, players do too and you almost question everything, but you have to take positives from the performance as much as you can and build on that. 

 “It is key to have a positive environment and it is one thing that we have always done well and something that has always been a strength of ours is always sticking together and not turning on each other and pointing the finger.” 

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For the majority of the squad, this Six Nations comes during their second year of professional contracts.  

Nelson said that investment from Scottish Rugby has helped the squad improve, but does not feel it adds more pressure for them to deliver results.  

“I don’t think we see it as extra pressure,” she added. 

“We know we are better because of the support we have, and it allows a lot of girls who are playing down south or in the Celtic Challenge to compete at a high level week to week.  

“We are able to recover and take things more seriously and feel more professional and better off as individuals.” 

Scotland Rugby News: Helen Nelson has become a key part of the Scotland squadHelen Nelson has become a key part of the Scotland squad (Image: SNS)

England and France have historically been the teams to beat in the Women’s Six Nations, and if Scotland are to become the ‘best of the rest’, Nelson knows they will need to start the championship well in Wales.  

Wales won last year’s meeting 34-22, while they also defeated Scotland at the World Cup in New Zealand.  

“We want to get a good start to the tournament and we don’t want to focus on what has happened in the past against Wales,” Nelson said.  

"We know that if we concentrate on ourselves and put out that good performance then we will be happy with the end result.”