A HARTLEPOOL expat is helping to bring rugby to the masses in an Eastern European country.
David Lowe, who played for West Hartlepool and Hartlepool Rovers, has been involved in the massive growth of the sport in Montenegro.
It is now the fastest-growing sport in the country, and David, 41, has been chosen to help coach the national side.
He took his passion for the sport with him when he moved to the Balkans to work as operations manager on a 500 million Euro marina development.
In the last three years the sport has mushroomed, and David has been involved with the development of several new clubs in the country.
He got involved after being asked to play in an invitational game against a side of yacht crews and staff involved in the luxury marina development around the Bay of Kotor.
David said: “This was the first rugby match played in Montenegro. I became good friends with the Australian guy who organised the fixture, and things started to grow from there.
“Over the past three years clubs have mushroomed all over the country, benefiting from sponsorship from the coastal development project owners, who see rugby as a significant symbol of synergy and collaboration between locals and international newcomers.
“The natural athleticism and competitive nature of the Montenegrin people is legendary – the average height of a man is just over 6ft.
“If ever there was a country which could adapt to rugby with ease it would have to be Montenegro.”
David, who lives in neighbouring Croatia with fiancee Marija and five-month-old son Roko, was invited to help coach the Montenegro national team because of his experience.
He gained a Rugby Football Union coaching qualification at Oxford University, and previously played for Hartlepool Rovers, West Hartlepool, London Irish Under-21s, and Durham County.
Many people will remember his dad Tony Lowe, chairman of Hartlepool Rovers.
Montenegro will play their first international match against Greece in August.
David also coaches the club Arsenal RFC in Tivat, Montenegro. The club are named after a former Yugoslavian navy base.
He added: “Rugby is the fastest-growing sport in Montenegro and with rugby 7s (seven a side) accepted as an Olympic sport, it is being seen as a sport with a serious future.”