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'I was being lineout-lifted in the bar for about three hours after'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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England international Jack Nowell has told all about his epic stag party last weekend in Ireland which resulted in him getting hilariously caught out by the live TV cameras wearing a Munster jersey during their Heineken Champions Cup match with Exeter. The recently turned 29-year-old is currently unavailable for his English club due to the broken arm sustained in last month’s Guinness Six Nations loss to France in Paris.

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Nowell spoke at length to RugbyPass in January about how he had given up the booze to boost his Exeter form and get back in an England Test jersey for the first time since October 2019, but that abstinence is now well and truly over following the trip to Ireland that he had no idea about. 

Nowell is one of four Lions players currently injured at Exeter, as Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jonny Hill and Sam Simmonds are also unavailable to Rob Baxter, and he got the shock off his life when he turned up at Cowan-Dickie’s house on Friday on the pretence that his teammate needed a hand setting up a barbecue.  

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This wasn’t the case at all and what instead unfolded was a raucous few days in Ireland that started and finished in Dublin on either side of watching Exeter play Munster on Saturday in their round-of-16 second leg Champions Cup tie in Limerick.

Having now just about recovered from the escapade, Nowell has reflected on his unexpected weekend away during a guest appearance on the latest BBC Rugby Union Weekly podcast. “I had not drunk since the first game of the season. I went from nothing to two days of straight Guinness and vodka,” he explained. 

“I’d gone cold turkey, I’d cut it out completely so I’d not had a drop but my wedding is next week so I said that might be the first time I’d have a couple of beers but then I turned up at Luke’s house and there was already Coronas and everything there and I was like, ‘There’s no way I’m not drinking this weekend’.” 

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Nowell explained how he had been caught out by his family, friends and Exeter teammates. “I’d no clue about this on Friday,” he said. “On Friday, I got in from training and then Cowan-Dickie was saying, ‘Jack, come over and help me set up my barbecue’. I turned up at his house and it was my dad, my brothers, a couple of my best mates from back home and they said, ‘Here’s your passport, we’re going over to Dublin’.

“They had known about it for months. The whole team knew about it as well, which made me very angry because normally I’m the guy that likes to organise stuff and be in on the joke. To have the joke on me now was a bit gutting, but it was an unbelievable weekend. 

“We stayed in Dublin, travelled (to Limerick) and back on the train. The train was unbelievable because we were with all the Munster fans going down. I rocked up in this extra, extra, extra small rugby top – it must have been kids. Four XL shorts, full kit, full socks, everything and I was just like, ‘Oh God’. Everyone laughing. 

“They [the Munster fans] are actually unbelievable. I was being lineout-lifted in the little bar for about three hours after around the back of the stadium. Everyone sees the funny side of it, but a few people are saying it’s pretty disgraceful. A lot of people see the funny side of it and it was an unbelievable weekend. I don’t think I’m ever going to forget it.”

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Asked about getting shown on the big screen at Thomond Park during the match wearing a Munster jersey, Nowell added: “I spoke to Tom O’Flaherty after (the game). He was on the pitch and he just started laughing. There was a stoppage in play. 

“Ian Whitten looked across at him and said, ‘What the hell are you laughing at? We’re losing, we’re in a big game’. They both turned around, looked up at the big screen and I’m there necking a beer in a Munster top. Both of them just shook their heads.

“I couldn’t tell you the score. I know that we lost but honestly you wouldn’t have thought it the way the boys were buzzing to see me after, and the bus journey back to Dublin was like we had just won the Heineken Cup. But it has hit home a little bit now the fact that we are out, but even if we did lose it’s was a weekend that I will never forget personally.”

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