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Friday 27 January 2023 Dublin: 3°C
Ben Brady/INPHO Jeremy Loughman will make his debut this weekend.
# first cap
'The USA asked what kind of interest I had... I was like, 'I want to play with Ireland''
Munster prop Jeremy Loughman is set to make his Ireland debut against Fiji on Saturday.

ALL THE WAY from Reno, it wasn’t always clear that Jeremy Loughman was gonna be a star.

The 27-year-old Munster loosehead prop has had ups and downs, doubts and setbacks, injuries and man-of-the-match awards. Now, he’s set to win his first Ireland cap on Saturday against Fiji at the Aviva Stadium. His route to this point hasn’t been conventional.

Loughman was a bit of a surprise call-up to the Ireland squad during the Six Nations earlier this year, but he clearly made a positive impression as he was kept on board for the tour of New Zealand last summer. To be fair, his childhood left him well-equipped to find himself in a new environment and adapt quickly.

He was born in Reno in the US, where his father David, an engineer in the oil and gas industry, was working at the time. When Jeremy was four, they moved to the UK, where they moved towns once too. When his grandfather got sick, they all returned to Ireland with Jeremy having turned 12.

“I went from a big enough town in England to a school where fifth and sixth class were in the same class. That was an interesting one,” explains Loughman.

“When you are young, it is very hard, a big shock. You get used to somewhere and you make friends then you move again. After a couple of those, it was a skill I developed where I could just drop myself in and learn to be myself, just get on with people.

“I think I’m very open, easy to get on with, which helps. It is a case of just trying to get stuck in the middle of it straight away. That’s something that I have done well in all those environments.”

His parents are now back living in the US, with his mother Katja, a teacher, having joined his dad in California just before the pandemic hit. Loughman’s two brothers live in the US too, while his sister is in London.

jeremy-loughman Dan Sheridan / INPHO Loughman has been with Munster since 2017. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“I have been here on my own for about two years now,” he says. “It’s strange enough. There are times when you would love to have them around. I’ve been used to it now. Whenever they get a chance they come over.”

They all visited last weekend to watch Loughman play for Ireland A, while they took in the South Africa match the following day. His dad surprised him over in New Zealand, where Jeremy played in both midweek games against the Māori All Blacks. The Loughmans are aiming for the Christmas inter-pros for their next trip.

Whatever about his life being turned on its head at the age of 12, Loughman counts himself lucky to land into Athy RFC to become part of an excellent underage team that also included Joey Carbery, who he’ll play alongside this weekend.

Loughman was soon on the North Midlands team and on into the Leinster Youths set-up, while a trip to one of Nigel Osborne’s Rugby and French summer camps near Biarritz had given him a taste of what schools rugby players were like. “Different gravy,” is how Loughman describes it. He wanted in.

So he and his dad visited a few of the schools in Dublin and they settled on Blackrock College, where he went for fifth and sixth year, helping them to the 2013 Leinster Schools Senior Cup in the same team as Garry Ringrose and Nick Timoney.

Loughman played for the Ireland U20s in 2015 and “felt I was on a real up,” then came through the Leinster academy to win five caps. But there was major competition for places and so he made the move to Munster back in 2017.

“It has been a rollercoaster,” says Loughman. 

Injuries have come at bad times and denied him momentum in both provinces, but he feels he’s on a good run now and has improved important parts of his game, including his mental skills. He credits Caroline Currid, who was with Munster last season, and Ireland’s Gary Keegan for helping him to find greater consistency.

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jeremy-loughman Dan Sheridan / INPHO Loughman training in Ireland camp. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

And along the way, he believed he could make it to Test level with Ireland.

USA Rugby tried to get him to commit to the Eagles a couple of times, but Loughman held out for the green jersey.

“They asked to see what kind of interest I had. Things were going well with Munster. The last two years I was getting more confident, felt that I was pushing myself into the team.

“I could see that if I could really push myself there [in Munster], then there was a chance here [with Ireland], so I would just stick to my guns. Living here, playing rugby here, being here pretty much my whole life, I was like, ‘I want to play with Ireland.’ That was my goal.”

The goal becomes a reality on Saturday but Loughman is already determined that he’s not going to be a one-cap wonder.

“I have been pushing to get that for me and my family,” he says of the Fiji match. “I just think it would be incredible. I don’t want it to be one cap, I want it to be a stepping stone and to keep pushing on.”

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