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All-Time American List: Ray Nelson

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All-Time American List: Ray Nelson

Ray Nelson playing for the USA in the 1987 Rugby World Cup. Photo from YouTube.

Ray Nelson was a points machine and a dynamic fullback for the USA.

Capped 25 by the USA at a time when the Eagles didn't play a lot every year, Nelson was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and he played his first rugby games there. He was talented and went on to play for Scotland at age-grade levels and was also skilled in 7s.

After a move to California to attend Cal State Long Beach, Nelson pitched up for the Los Angeles club and was a standout for the Southern California Griffins and Pacific Coast Grizzlies. He made his debut for the USA 15s team in 1983 and suited up at wing throughout the USA's successful tour of Australia. Nelson had quickly established himself as a potent attacking force and a strong defender, but he was also an effective goalkicker.

In Australia he was tabbed as the main goalkicker and helped the USA beat West Australia, South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales Country (they lost close games to Sydney and to Queensland, and were beaten soundly in the test match against the Wallabies).

Nelson played for the USA in the Rugby World Cup in 1987 and 1991, and his 27 points in the 1987 RWC remained a USA record for a single tournament until 2003. He was a perfect 4-for-4 in goalkicking (all four very difficult kicks), with a try to boot, in the USA's 21-18 defeat of Japan in 1987.  

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