Phil Dollman: Exeter full-back thought Wales chance had gone

Phil Dollman
Phil Dollman joined Exeter Chiefs in 2009 and helped them gain promotion from the Championship

New Wales squad member Phil Dollman initially thought his surprise call-up was a joke, believing that at 32 his international chance had passed him by.

The Exeter full-back has been drafted in for June's two-Test tour against Tonga and Samoa to replace injured Cardiff Blues teenager Rhun Williams.

He has had to cancel a family holiday to seize his chance for a first cap.

"I thought I had missed out... I am ecstatic," said Dollman, who was in just a towel when he got the call.

Dollman got the nod ahead of the likes of Ospreys' Dan Evans and Rhys Patchell at Scarlets.

"At 32 I thought and looked at that and saw they had some good young players so they are bringing guys on," he said.

"I thought it had probably passed by but gladly I have the opportunity now."

Leigh Halfpenny and Liam Williams are away with the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand, so Dollman is the only specialist full-back in Wales interim coach Robin McBryde's squad.

Phil Dollman
Phil Dollman played for Newport Gwent Dragons from 2007 to 2009

Blues' Gareth Anscombe and Sam Davies of the Ospreys - who both prefer the fly-half berth - are the other options at 15 to face Tonga on Friday, 16 June and Samoa a week later on Friday, 23 June.

Dollman also qualified for England through residency and his father was born in England, while the former Newport Gwent Dragons player also had an Italian grandparent.

But Dollman, who represented Wales at Under-18 and University level, never looked at other options.

"It has always been Wales for me," he said. "I am Welsh at heart and I have always wanted to play for Wales since I was a young age and that was probably the reason I took up rugby.

"Playing for your country is probably one of the biggest things I have tried to achieve.

"Hopefully I can do that and make a good account of myself and move forward from there."

Good news in a towel

Dollman relived the moment he discovered his international call-up, as he was preparing for Exeter's Premiership final against Wasps on Saturday.

"I was a bit surprised when I got the phone call from Robin," Dollman admitted.

"I got in the shower after training and noticed I had a few missed calls on the phone.

"I got showered and thought I would catch up with things afterwards.

Robin McBryde
Robin McBryde will be in charge of Wales' Tests against Tonga and Samoa

"I listened to the answer-phone message in my towel and it was Robin McBryde asking me to give him a call back.

"I was half kind of thinking it was a joke and it was one of the boys leaving me an answer-phone message.

"I went to speak to one or two of the backroom staff and they said Wales had been in touch the day before, so it gave me the confidence to ring him back and have a chat.

"It went well. I can't remember much of what I said, some silly things."

Dollman has had to cancel a family holiday with his wife and two children to the Balearic Islands after receiving his call-up.

"I haven't had much time to think about things but we will have to look into how we are going to sort that out," said Dollman.

"We were moving house as well and getting a new dog, so there is plenty to be getting on with the next month.

"But rugby comes first and hopefully that side of it can go well and everything else can take care of itself.

"The family understand that and have always been very supportive."

Exeter move the right choice

Dollman played for Caerphilly and Bedwas, and left the Dragons in 2009 after being not offered a new deal before linking up with Exeter in the Championship.

"It was a bit of a quick scenario," said Dollman.

"I had a good time at the Dragons and made quite a few appearances for them.

"I was quite young, 23 or 24, and quite an immature rugby player and had not developed that quickly.

Phil Dollman in action against Exeter
Phil Dollman played in Exeter's Premiership semi-final win over Saracens

"They were unable to offer me a contract and luckily I went out on the market and found Exeter.

"It was a big move for us and my girlfriend and we didn't really hesitate, because I knew rugby was what I wanted to do and felt confidence.

"It was a big decision and I have not looked back since."

After the Premiership final on Saturday, Dollman will link up with the Wales squad alongside Exeter team-mate Tomas Francis.

He could be wearing the Wales number 15 jersey against Tonga in Auckland, in a double header with New Zealand also taking on Samoa at Eden Park, on 16 June.

"If someone had told me that a few months ago I would have laughed," said Dollman.

"That sounds nice and hopefully I can put my claim forward."

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