Belfast Telegraph

Loughman looks to repay Munster's faith in him

 

Red hot: Jeremy Loughman is in fine form
Red hot: Jeremy Loughman is in fine form

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

As the less heralded member of Munster's Athy contingent, Jeremy Loughman has been able to build his career away from the glare unlike his underage team-mate Joey Carbery.

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Tomorrow night, however, they'll be equally important members of the party that travels north to face Ulster in the pivotal Guinness PRO14 clash that will propel them into the most important week of their season.

Their European position is perilous ahead of Sunday week's meeting with Racing 92 in Paris, but it would have been far worse had Loughman not been in sparkling form in round one when his superb handling in the build-up to Andrew Conway's try drew plenty of admiration.

Injury intervened to take him out of the December schedule, but he's back now to fight for his place against Dave Kilcoyne and James Cronin.

His handling gives him a point of difference, but the former Leinster man has not neglected his basics either and has emerged as the complete package since moving south in 2017.

"It's been unbelievable," he said of the year just gone.

"I couldn't believe how well it's gone, so I have to keep on top of that and keep pushing forward with that.

"The highlight of the year was that match against Ospreys, and hopefully I can keep pushing on and getting more of it."

After finding his opportunities limited at Leinster, Loughman opted to take up a three month development contract three years ago and he's steadily grown into the role.

"I enjoyed my time thoroughly at Leinster," he recalled.

"I had a good time, I enjoyed the academy and loved every minute of it, but obviously as you there is know huge competition up there. I just had to look after my career.

"An opportunity came and I just had to take it and I haven't looked back since.

"It was a bit more of an opportunity for myself and I loved it when I came down, so I said I'd give it a go and I stayed down and haven't regretted my decision at all.

"It's all quite similar really, it's just different kind of people and personalities might be a bit different. But I fitted in well with the lads and I knew a fair few of them from Under-20s and playing all the underage teams on the way up.

"A few lads, like Conor Oliver I was in school with, had been down before me, so it wasn't too bad integrating in and the lads helped me out."

That Ospreys try was held up as an example of how Munster are trying to move their game on under the tutelage of Stephen Larkham and Loughman says the coaches want the players to go for it when it's on.

"There's definitely more freedom to play," he said. "That's what we are really trying to encourage, playing that heads-up style.

"It's something I have always loved, and I played in the backs until I was 17, so when I was in school, that's when I made my switch to the front row. So I like that open free-flowing game whenever we get those opportunities it's fun to do."

Of course, scrummaging is the key part of his game and he's been working closely with Munster's other new coach, Graham Rowntree, on that aspect.

"I think it works really well," he said of the coaching blend.

"It's all good wanting to play the open, free flowing game, but you have to get that dominant possession and win your own ball - you have to secure your breakdown.

"They work really well together. Stephen will let the backs open themselves up and do their thing, and the forwards, we can have a bit more interplay and stuff, but when it comes down to it the set-piece wins you the games."

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