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'There was real animosity there... there would have been a want to silence him'

Ex-Munster hooker Mike Sherry explains the inter-provincial rivalry with Leinster wing James Lowe.

James Lowe has had a few skirmishes with Munster in his time.
James Lowe has had a few skirmishes with Munster in his time.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Updated Nov 19th 2020, 5:03 PM

JAMES LOWE IS a very popular figure with those he has played with and those who know him personally, but he tends to be top of the head-hunting list for opposition teams.

The new Ireland wing is a spiky presence on the field, as underlined once again on his Test debut against Wales last weekend. 

Speaking on today’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly, former Munster hooker Mike Sherry explained how the province’s players would have had to shed a bit of a grudge towards Lowe when he came into Ireland camp this autumn.

Leinster man Lowe has been involved in a few skirmishes with Munster over the last three years, meaning he had become a bit of a target in their inter-provincial clashes. 

Host Gavan Casey put the question to Sherry:

“When I heard that some of the Munster players had warmed to him during Ireland camp and realised he’s actually not so bad, I thought it was a joke.

“I didn’t realise there would be actual, real disdain there, despite the fact that he would be sticking the knife in during games for Leinster against Munster. I always thought that was a bit performative and that once the full-time whistle blew, it’s not genuine hatred.

“But all the sounds since that have been that there was actual animosity from Munster players towards him?”

Sherry, who retired from playing rugby last year at the age of 31, explained that there had been a real edge between Munster and Lowe. 

“There was definitely real animosity there,” said Sherry. “If you think of it from their point of view, they’re going to play Leinster in semi-final after semi-final and it’s invariably going Leinster’s way with the odd Munster scalp during the season. When it comes to semi-finals, it has not gone Munster’s way for a long time.

james-lowe Lowe made his Ireland debut last week against Wales. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“So the hostilities have lessened from both sides because of Irish camp and getting to know the players that way, whereas Lowe wasn’t in Irish camp. The Munster players just saw him when he was running amok, scoring tries, getting involved in the niggly stuff, and they didn’t get a chance to know him as the guy he is.

“So there would have been real animosity and, being honest, jealously that he was doing so well and having such an impact on these games.

“Look back on the Felipe Contepomi, ROG, Donncha O’Callaghan, Denis Leamy, that rivalry, they never got to know Contepomi. I’m sure they have since but they didn’t get to know him by being in Ireland camp obviously, he was away with Argentina and there was also that rivalry internationally.

“So it would have been real [with Lowe], there would have been a want to silence him. Unfortunately, there’s not really that much interaction after games, you have your meals and you’re back onto your bus to your own city.

“They wouldn’t have got to know him and I can assure you that was real. It’s good to see that that has lessened as they’ve got to know him!” 

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Indeed, Lowe swiftly won over the Munster players when he was called into Ireland camp and made an impressive debut against Wales last Friday.

The 28-year-old starts against England this Saturday and Sherry believes he is a brilliant addition for Ireland.

“He brings a huge amount, he’s infectious in his personality and how he plays. He adds a real touch of class, he’s a momentum-giver.

“He’s incredibly strong as you can see in his carries and tackles, everything he does has a real venom in it, there’s a real decisiveness whenever he gets the ball. He brings a different element to the back three, he’s not your typical Irish player, obviously.

james-lowe-celebrates-scoring-their-second-try-with-will-connors-and-chris-farrell Lowe will start against England on Saturday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“He’s bringing that x-factor that maybe sometimes might be missing. He’s such a consistent performer, something that’s not really touched on, but it’s rare that he’s not a focal figure in any game he has played for Leinster, he’s at the heart of everything.

“Even when the ball isn’t coming his way, he’ll get involved in some little scrap and smiling in the oppositions’ face. I’m sure he’s absolutely hated across the league by the opposition but his team-mates absolutely love him.

“If you play with him, train with him, and are around him, he seems like a lovely guy and really infectious in everything he does. It’s a huge boost to the squad. You’ve seen the impact he has had on Leinster and he’s good enough to have that impact for Ireland.”

This week’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly saw Sherry joining Gavan Casey and Murray Kinsella to discuss Ireland’s new halfback pairing, Andy Farrell’s much-changed XV, as well as the English power and kicking game.

They also chatted about Dan Leavy’s form with Leinster, some promising Munster performances, and the competitiveness of the Pro14 early on this season.

First published today at 16.30

You can listen to The42 Rugby Weekly below or on your favourite podcast app.

Mike Sherry joins Gavan and Murray to preview the big one in Twickenham and discuss Dan Leavy’s return:

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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