Former Irish U-20 prop Coulson thriving in Grenoble
Former Irish U-20 prop Denis Coulson is hoping that his second successful year in France might culminate in European glory, but first his Grenoble side must take care of Connacht in Saturday's Challenge Cup quarter-final.
The Dublin native is one of those who had to look further afield after coming off a successful schools and Irish underage sides to pursue his dream as a professional rugby player.
But the 21-year-old didn't have to look far as his coach on a star-studded St Michael's team which won the 2012 Leinster senior cup was Bernard Jackman and the former Irish hooker had no hesitation in bringing the loosehead prop to France.
More than half a dozen of that schools team were drafted into the Leinster academy and the likes of Dan Leavy, Ross Beirne, Ross Molony, Cian Kelleher and Nick McCarthy graduated from that St Michael's side to make their senior debuts. Coulson also hit the ground running, coming on last season to make his Top 14 debut away to Toulon at Stade Mayol as a 20-year-old.
"I played a lot more than I would have expected to play my first year of professional rugby. Making my debut in Toulon was a bit of a shock to the system, it was crazy. That was one I will never forget. It was huge. I was very happy with how I did. I think we won one penalty in the scrum, I wasn't penalised. And then I got three or four carries, and a good few tackles in. So I was happy with it."
He was in the match-day squad 11 times, started or made an appearance in seven, either in the Top 14 or Challenge Cup and he has built on that this season in both competitions.
"Last year was really huge year for me and my professional career. I learned so much and it was such a valuable experience for me," said Coulson, who played for the Irish U-20s at the Junior World Cup in New Zealand in 2014. It helps that Jackman and former Munster scrum-half Mike Prendergast are involved, while former Connacht captain Andrew Farley is team manager, with playing colleagues in ex-Ulster centre Chris Farrell and Clontarf scrum-half James Hart.
"I am really enjoying it here, the lifestyle is good and so is the rugby. I can ski a bit in the winter, and in the summer we go swimming in the lakes and it's 35 degrees. It's a great place and it's not far from Dublin so my family come out quite a bit," he added.