James Lowe winning battle to shed expendable tag
New Zealander loving life at Leinster after brilliant start to season
Leinster’s James Lowe breaks through the Wasps defence to score his first try during the Champions Cup match at the RDS. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images
Nothing irks the Leinster management and their supporters more than the ‘non-EU’ conundrum which forces them to choose two from Scott Fardy, Jamison Gibson-Park and James Lowe, not least as last season Lowe, the RDS favourite, was usually the self-termed “expendable” one.
But following Isa Nacewa’s retirement, the case for picking Lowe has been made even more compelling of late by the man himself. Lowe backed up his huge game against Munster with another voracious, two-try, 80-minute effort which did earn the official man-of-the-match award in Friday’s dissection of Wasps. That took his tally to six in six games this season, and 16 in 18 for Leinster to date.
Leinster and Irish rugby is giving him what he wanted.
“And some,” he said in the wake of that 52-3 win. “Nowhere in the world are you going to get 50,000 at a club game. That rivalry between Leinster and Munster is well and truly alive. Last week showed it. It went down to the wire and we managed to come away with the points. We were bloody stoked to do it in front of a packed Aviva.
“This is our ‘home’ home; like going back to your parents,” he said of the RDS. “They’re always happy here. It is always packed stands and on a night like tonight we needed them. We managed to give them everything, and more, I feel.”
He was restricted to just three of Leinster’s nine games in the competition last season, but it helps that the innately good-humoured Maori All Black wears it so well.
“Everyone wants to play in the big games, everyone wants to play in every game that they are available for selection. But you also gotta understand that in my position, there is a lot of depth. Scott has played 30/40 international Test matches. When he comes on, what he brings is a lot of mongrel. He’s 30-odd years, he’s bald but he’s definitely a leader in the team. And Jamison really pushes Luke for that number one spot. I understand that I am more expendable but it’s nice to know that I am not getting picked because of a rule. It’s not that I’m not getting picked because I’m not good enough.”
Nor does he need the ruling as any additional motivation.
“I just want to put that jersey on and leave it in a better place then when I came. It’s tough because Isa wore it, but they won a European Cup without me and I’m bloody stoked for a day. Doesn’t bother me, I had a heck of a day in Bilbao man. They should have given me a camera for that, it was the best day of my life.”
How on earth the All Blacks let him slip through the net is mystifying, but that aside Lowe cited Tadhg Furlong’s wondrous step and one-handed offload to the Kiwi winger before his try-scoring pass inside to Luke McGrath as evidence that the Irish skill-set is on a par with the All Blacks.
He also said of Furlong: “I didn’t know how to pronounce his name when I first came. I call him Tigger, you know Winnie the Pooh? He acts like him sometimes.”
Lowe also revealed his parents are coming over for the November Test window. “No, stop there,” he said, prior to being asked who he’d be supporting in the Ireland-New Zealand game. “I knew you were going to ask that. Like my parents will most likely wear a silver fern on their chest. I’m going to go in casual gear. I’m very, very neutral, at the moment. I don’t know who I will support.”