WP Nel to retire at end of season

Edinburgh coach Sean Everitt has confirmed that the veteran tighthead will hang up his boots at the conclusion of the current campaign

WP Nel
WP Nel in this season's second leg of the 1872 Cup between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

EDINBURGH head coach Sean Everitt revealed today that veteran prop WP Nel will retire at the end of the current campaign after 12 years with the capital club and nine as a Scotland international.

Nel, who turns 38 next month, played his 200th game for Edinburgh last week. He insisted a few days before that milestone that he had not thought about the retirement issue, but reports subsequently emerged linking Northampton Saints tighthead Paul Hill with a move to the capital as a replacement for Nel, and it was when asked about that link that Everitt broke the news.

“We’ve been looking at options at tighthead because of the retirement of WP Nel,” the coach said at lunchtime. “We’ve also looked at replacements for Bill Mata, who is going to be leaving us [for Bristol Bears]. 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.” 

Asked if Nel had confirmed to him that he would be retiring, Everitt continued: “Yes, he has. He’s had a good innings and a long innings. 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 someone will wake up in the morning and say ‘I think I’ve had enough’.”

Having stated that he would have liked Nel to agree another short-term contract when his current deal expires, Everitt then suggested there was still time for the player to have a rethink. “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.

“He’s not retiring with immediate effect. He’s been talking about retirement but he definitely won’t be retiring with immediate effect. He enjoys the game of rugby, but he knows time is drawing near.

“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 and as long as he’s fit he wants to train but he has been chatting about it.”

Scottish Rugby released a statement this evening confirming the news broken by Everitt. Under the headline “WP Nel announces retirement from rugby”, the 61-times-capped prop said: “To have the opportunity to play for Scotland is something I’m incredibly proud of. The memories in the jersey are unbelievable.

“When you stand there, singing the anthem, it’s a moment to be proud of, to be part of a team that will represent Scotland.

“My family was the forefront of everything. To have them in the stands, it makes you stronger, it lifts you, you want to perform for them, so it’s always been brilliant to have them there.”

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend added: “WP has given a huge amount to Scottish rugby over a number of years.

“He was a joy to coach as every time he took to the training pitch he gave it his all, no matter how much his body was giving him issues. WP will rank amongst the best props to play for Scotland, highly respected from coaches and players alike – and he also had a brilliant sense of humour.

“I know how much playing for Scotland has meant to him and his family, and we are so grateful for everything he has done in the shirt. We’ll miss his smile, his love of the scrum and some very skilful moments that often lit up our training sessions. We wish him all the best for the rest of the season and in his retirement.”

Nel is likely to start again for Edinburgh against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday, when they will bid to bounce back from last week’s defeat by the Stormers in Cape Town. However, his fellow-Scotland internationals Ali Price, Mark Bennett and Grant Gilchrist will all miss out for different reasons.

“Gilco’s not available this week for personal reasons,” Everitt explained. “Mark Bennett is ruled out with concussion this week but should be available next week. Ali Price’s wife gave birth this morning to a little girl, so congratulations to them.”

Price’s loan from Glasgow runs out at the end of the season, but Everitt hopes to keep the scrum-half on a permanent deal.  “The opportunity hasn’t passed. 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.”

Could the birth of his daughter influence Price into staying in Scotland? “I’ll certainly use it as motivation to keep him,” Everitt said.

Meanwhile, Emiliano Boffelli remains a doubt for Saturday after being withdrawal from last week’s squad. “Unfortunately he picked up a bit of a nerve problem last week and was unable to train or play on Saturday,” Everitt said of the Argentinian back. “He has shown slight improvement early this week so we’ll monitor him and when it comes to naming the team we’ll have to make a call.”

While the absences of Gilchrist, Price, Bennett and potentially Boffelli could be keenly felt,  Ewan Ashman, Jamie Ritchie, Pierre Schoeman and Duhan van der Merwe are all expected to return after being rested last week. Edinburgh could do with a win against the Sharks after falling down to sixth place in the URC as a result of their loss to the Stormers, but they will not find it easy against Everitt’s old team, who appear to be coming into a bit of form after a frustrating first half of the season.

“They’ll be very disappointed with the season, particularly with the depth they’ve created in the squad at the moment,” Everitt said of the Sharks, whose win over Ulster on Saturday was just their second league win of the season. “I can’t put a finger on what has transpired at the Sharks over the last 12 months, but they put it together on Saturday.

“They’ve got several World Cup winning Springboks within their group. If you look at their backline they’ve got [Aphelele] Fassi who has played for South Africa, they’ve got [Makazole] Mapimpi who has played for South Africa, Eduan Keyter was one of the best players in South Africa two years ago but unfortunately has been injured.

“They’ve got Lukhanyo Am and Francois Venter on the bench who are both Springboks, you’ve got Curwin Bosch on the bench who is a Springbok, two Springbok scrum-halves, Eben [Etzebeth] is back and he’s led the Springboks and brings a lot of leadership to the team. He’s a fierce competitor as we all know and we’ve witnessed that when he’s played for South Africa.

“Then they are boasting a huge amount of experience in the front row with Bongi Mbonambi, Vincent Koch who has just arrived, as well as the likes of Ox Nche and Coenie Oosthuizen and all those guys are Springboks. So you do the maths and they have to get it right at some stage with the players they have available.

“Their coach mentioned it was a stepping stone to winning four games in a row so we’ll be up against it on Saturday, we’re under no false illusions. We don’t look at past results, we look at the team that we’re playing and we look at their last game, because you’re only as good as their last game and we know we’ll need to be good if we’re going to beat them.”



About Stuart Bathgate 1392 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.


  1. Great bloke, great prop, great Scotsman!…’nuff said!!!
    PS…for those that disagree fine but from a personal perspective I can think only of one place where the thumbs down commenters can shove it!😁

  2. Sad to see that 2 people are selecting thumbs down on all these posts. Pathetic.

    What a player, added amazing strength and depth for Scotland for 9 years. Hopefully he stays on to coach the next generation.

  3. Definitely deserves the karaoke in front of the main stand treatment after his last game (if we win). Absolute legend.

  4. Thanks for all you have given to Edinburgh and Scotland. You’re a great role model for all the kids that watch you!

  5. A great servant to Edinburgh- will be sorely missed unlike the sad person who has been downvoting all the posts on this thread. All these posts are simply thanking WP for great service to Edinburgh – how could anyone lower themselves to criticise.

      • Nel wonlt be Scottish enough for some on here.

        Can’t really add to the other posts, terrific player for Edin and Scotland, especially during a time when we really lacked a good tighthead. Respect and best wishes

  6. I remember watching him playing for the Cheetahs (scoring lots of tries) and thinking he was a great player. Then the joy at finding out he was signing for Edinburgh. No doubt he’s been our best prop of the professional era – and that includes Euan Murray and Zander Fagerson. Let’s hope he takes up a role as a Scottish scrum coach.
    Thanks for being so brilliant WP!

  7. What would we have done without WP over the last decade or so. Been great for club and country and comes across as a genuinely nice bloke. Good luck in retirement and whatever comes next.

  8. A fine servant for Edinburgh and Scotland. Best wishes to him, he put in a fine shift and can be proud of what he’s achieved in the game. Cheers, WP!

  9. WP you gave so much. I hope you stay in the game to pass on your experience to the younger generation. Loved watching you play. Your attitude, skills and power are fabulous. Thank you.


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