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OM Focus: Dom Coulson (C1 2013-18)

Just three years ago, Dom Coulson (C1 2013-18) was touring Japan with the Marlborough College development squad. This summer he made his senior debut for Kenya after an impressive rise.

Following a whirlwind summer for the 19-year old, he spoke to about the influence Marlborough had on his rugby career and what the future holds.

You’ve recently been involved with Kenya at U20 and senior level, how did the opportunity come about?

Paul Odera, the U20s coach, used to coach and referee many games at prep school level in Kenya. He also keeps an eye on the progress of Kenyan players playing elsewhere, and asked about my availability in 2018. However, due to my academic commitments a Marlborough I couldn’t attend the training camps. I began a gap year last summer and was able to commit to the Kenyan U20 squad from March. We competed in the Barthes Cup (Africa’s qualifying tournament for the Junior World Trophy) and qualified for the first time ever, becoming the first Kenyan side at any level to beat Namibia along the way.

From here I got a chance to join the senior squad – the Kenya Simbas. Paul Odera had taken over as coach for the senior side and saw the opportunity in the Elgon Cup, which takes place over two legs between the Kenya Simbas and Uganda, to call up four of his U20s for the home leg. Three of us were named in the starting line-up; made especially memorable as I played alongside my brother, Cameron. We lost 16-13 – but it was a fantastic experience.

Which moment stands out as the most surprising for you?

Definitely being told about a possible call up to the senior Kenya side. I was told quite casually by the coach “I’ll need you around for a week at the end of June as I want you to play for the Simbas. Oh, and try and put a few kilos on by then!”

Another surprise was playing in Brazil at the Junior World Trophy. The stadium we played in had a moat and spiked fencing around it to stop Brazilian fans from invading the pitch. Thankfully we didn’t experience any of this from their rugby fans.

What would you highlight as your most memorable rugby experiences with Kenya so far on and off the field?

Playing against Japan in the third pool game at the Junior World Rugby Trophy. Japan were the favourites and eventual winners. We played out of our skins and were 31-29 down with 15 minutes to go, before Japan ran out 48-36 winners. We had dreamt about doing the impossible, beating Japan, and it so nearly became a reality.

Whilst in Rio we visited Christ the Redeemer on a team day out. It was incredible to share the trip with a group of teammates and also friends, some of whom had never left Kenya before. Being able to experience this trip and even the whole tour with them was humbling.

How much of an impact did Marlborough have on your rugby and what are your fondest memories?

Marlborough had a significant impact on my rugby. I was fortunate enough to have some very good coaches throughout my five years there, especially at Colts level with Mr Clayton and then at XV level with Budge Pountney and Terry Gilmour – both of whom helped me seriously enjoy my rugby and have fun whilst also playing at a good level.

One of my fondest memories came in Colts, we had had a pretty good season only losing one or two games this culminated in a 38-17 or so win against Wellington on Hamersley. Another great memory came in my last year where we narrowly beat Abingdon to end a tough run for the XV.

So after a busy summer, what are your plans now?

After three weeks in Brazil I spent some time at home in Kenya to recover. I am now back in England having recently started at the University of Exeter – although could link up with the Kenya Simbas again soon for a training camp.

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Marlborough XV on their achievements last season. Reaching the semi-final of the Schools Cup at Allianz Park was a fantastic for all involved.