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Nel more interested in Edinburgh than 2015 World Cup

Little Henre Nel is only six weeks old, but by virtue of being born in Edinburgh he has already stolen a march on his father as the first member of the family to become eligible to play for Scotland.

Even so, it is still worth backing Willem Nel to beat his son to the honour, not least because the SRU made no secret of the fact that the former Free State Cheetahs prop had been signed as a 'project player', with the intention that he would qualify for Scotland on residence grounds just in time for the 2015 World Cup.

In truth, Nel's low-key performances for Edinburgh in the first few weeks of the question caused some supporters to question the wisdom of the deal, but the 26-year-old's powerful contribution to the cause, albeit a losing one, in the second half of the side's Heineken Cup match against Racing Metro last weekend went a long way towards silencing any doubters.

"I didn't actually think it was my best game, but it went quite well for me," Nel reflected. "I think I did a few good things when I got on the field. I think I'm getting more used to the way games are played here now, so hopefully it will just get better."

The major part of the adjustment process has been coming to terms with the intensity of the European game. With the Cheetahs, Nel had grown accustomed to the high-tempo patterns of Super 15 rugby, but his immersion in the RaboDirect PRO12 and Heineken Cup has been an introduction to an altogether different style of game.

Nel said: "I think it certainly is more intense. In the super 15 you have quick games, going wide to wide, but here they want to play around the rucks and through the middle. The rugby is slower, but the intensity is a lot greater and games seem to be a lot closer."

There was a time when South African props would be hailed primarily for their expertise in the set-piece, but Nel suggested that the European game has moved ahead of the southern hemisphere as far as the technicalities of the scrum are concerned.

"Back home, I don't think the focus so strongly on the scrum now," he said. "I don't think there is so much analysis and thought as there is here. Here, there is a big focus on the opposition, what the other guy does.

"So I think it is more technical whereas, in South Africa, it is maybe more about just strength. But if you're a prop you like to scrum, so it's been good to learn a different way of doing things.

There are a couple of techniques you have to learn here, but I think I've got used to it quite quickly. At Edinburgh, it's something we always want to improve on. We want to get better there and dominate teams up front. If you want to do that, your first phase must be great; we do a lot of work on it."

So what of his international ambitions? Very much on the back burner, he says. "I just want to play for Edinburgh and make Edinburgh better. I'm not thinking about being a project player, I just want to get  on with my game. I don't want to get ahead of myself."

The likelihood is that Nel will start ahead of Cross in the return match against Racing at Murrayfield on Friday evening. The 19-9 loss to the French side in Paris effectively dynamited their hopes of going through to the last eight of the Heineken Cup, but he is adamant that there will still be much to play for.

"Our approach is that we must win," he said firmly. "We want to win this game because we want to be on high going into the two games against Glasgow. It's also very important for our spectators to give them a good win at home. We went through a period where we had a few losses, but I think we learnt a lot in that period and we have progressed since then. I think we are on the up now."

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