Isaac Coates’ journey; from Driffield to Super Series, and second row to stand-off
A mainstay of the FOSROC Futures XV so far, Isaac Coates’ journey to Edinburgh has already taken a number of turns for his young age.
“I was playing football when I was five or six, but I didn’t really like it that much. So my mum asked if there was any other sports I wanted to try and I knew there was a local rugby team, so I went down and starting playing there. I moved clubs up to Driffield RFC, and then played school rugby in North Yorkshire which was quite intense so I really picked it up there. Then I made the choice to move up to Scotland, which was a big move, to play at Merchiston. My rugby really drove on there.
“I started off as a second row, but I haven’t really grown since I was 13! So I moved from second row to back row, then to inside centre at U16 and U17 I moved to fly half. Playing all over the park a bit, it does give you that perspective of what everyone is thinking which is good.”
Making the tough decision to head away from North Yorkshire when the opportunity arose to come to Scotland and attend Merchiston Castle School, was one Coates jumped at. And it proved a fruitful move for the stand-off, as he won the Scottish Rugby U18 Schools Cup on two occasions at Scottish Gas Murrayfield.
“My headmaster at Aysgarth School in North Yorkshire helped me look at two schools, Oakham down south and obviously Merchiston up here. I went for a tour at Merchiston, and I just really liked it, it was like a bigger version of my old school which was just ideal for me really. So I just thought ‘I’ve seen enough, I’ll crack on with it up there.’
“The first year we won it when I was in lower sixth, and then we managed to retain it the year after when I was in upper sixth, that was really good. Running out at Murrayfield, you can’t really compare it to any other rugby experience.”
Coates went straight from school to competitive senior rugby in the form of the FOSROC Super Series. He has settled in well to the FOSROC Future XV side, starting in six of his seven appearances so far and noticing improvements in his performance.
“I definitely think it’s experience that the up-and-coming players in Scotland need, the level that you’ll play at when you go away to the U20 World Trophy and Six Nations, so I think it’s a good idea to chuck us in there to really prepare us for what’s coming.
“It was quite daunting at first to go and play adult rugby, you think everyone’s going to be a lot bigger than you. For my position it’s not too bad physicality wise, obviously you get the odd forward running at you, and you’ve just got to go for it as best you can really! It’s more about game management for me. At school level you can get away with playing from anywhere really, running it whenever you want, but in adult rugby you’ve really got to play in the right areas. I think that’s been my main focus coming into adult rugby and something I’m getting better at all the time.”
Coates is also part of the Edinburgh Pro-Academy, training with the side weekly and getting the opportunity to train with professionals he previously looked up to.
“I’ve been up in Edinburgh for five years now, so I’ve been able to see the Edinburgh team and look at who’s playing in my position. Going into training now with people like Chris Dean, Mark Bennett and Ben Vellacott, they’ve been a great help. Those little details that they give you, it really helps you progress your game.
“People like Ben Healy and Blair Kinghorn, they’ve both been through what I’m going through so it’s something I can relate to. It’ll be good to learn from them, I’m sure they’ll have some good advice.”
Looking forward, Coates hopes to graduate from the Super Series to the Edinburgh team, and eventually go on to represent Scotland at a stadium he first set foot on with Merchiston.
“Firstly, I want to play for Edinburgh as soon as I can, and then looking past that I want to play for Scotland and run out again at Murrayfield, not with my school team but with the national team this time.”