Fitter, stronger, faster: James Lowe making his Ireland mark in time for the All Blacks

Winger light-hearted about Andy Farrell’s take on how his preparation has improved

There was the sense that a trimmed down James Lowe was playing for something more than an Irish win against Japan at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

Recalled by Andy Farrell ahead of the arrival of New Zealand, the country of his birth, Japan selection for the winger was the Irish coach asking questions of a player who over the last few months in camp has changed opinions

“James had a little bit of a wake-up call,” said Farrell. “He went away and understood how he needed to prepare for international rugby. His preparation is through the roof in comparison to what it was before. He’s learned the hard way. There’s a few things that he needs to get better from today as well but his attitude is in the right place.

“He finds a way into the game. He’s not a tidy player but neither do we want our players to be tidy players. He finds a way into the game, he’s in great nick, he’s lost a bit of weight and is fit.”


It was there to be seen. Lowe contesting high balls, Lowe hustling in centre positions looking to carry, Lowe scrambling around the pitch, Lowe covering back and kicking to touch.

It was also Lowe who triggered the attack for his try, Ireland’s first. His kick and chase down the left wing forced Japan to punt the ball back to Ireland. From the next attacking wave it was Lowe gathering Jack Conan’s pass from behind his body to show pace and score in the corner.

A more serious, focused Leinster back. To a point. Lowe remains the great deflector and let’s be clear Farrell wasn’t body shaming him.

“Who said that?” says Lowe of the coach’s weight remark. “Andy said it? He said it twice? I’ll have to have a word with him. No, I have lost weight, a little bit and I guess I am a little fitter, I guess. But bloody billow on him saying it behind my back. At least he could have told me to my face…

“Yeah, I guess I did have a conscious effort. I thought ‘how could I evolve my game, how could I evolve it more?’ It was probably through being fitter. Threw off a few keys (kilos), been spinning around the field a bit easier. Boll**ks on him, Jesus…”


Farrell will know from experience what way to take his winger's sense of mischief. But at the heart of Lowe’s performance is the desire to play against a team of All Black players, many of whom he grew up with and several who he continues to call friends.

Lowe also fits the Leinster model of giving agency to individuals within a structure. The capacity of players to act independently and to make their own choices fits well with Lowe’s style of play. But friends or not, he knows the breadth of challenge the All Blacks bring.

“Some of my best friends are starters in that All Black team,” he says. “I went to school with two or three. I played with a few of them when they were younger and I said these kids are going to have a big future and now they have cemented themselves in the 15.

“I looked after Anton (Lienart-Brown) when he was a kid. I spent a lot of time Damian (McKenzie), Sammy (Cane), Broadie (Retallick), went to school with David (Havili) and Ethan (Blackadder). I played with Finlay (Christie) and Will Jordan.

“The list goes on in terms of the people that helped me become a player through playing with them,” he adds. “I can’t wait for next week.”

Part two of the Irish Maori’s voyage of discovery.