Six Nations miscellany: Lancaster backs Lowe to bring X-factor to Ireland game

Scottish party poopers . . . Anniversary numbers don’t stack up . . . On this day

Leinster's senior coach Stuart Lancaster believes that James Lowe will get better and better as he acclimatises to Test rugby. The 28-year-old wing has impressed with his kicking game but there are still untapped resources when it comes to his all-round game.

“I think that he [Lowe] has done well. The left foot is not the only tool that he has in his armoury. He’s very strong, very powerful, one on one. And he can create something out of nothing. That is probably something that all teams need, someone with that X-factor.

“Defensively he’s still working hard. When I spoke to him the other day, it is definitely something that is at the forefront of his mind making sure that he is as solid defensively as he is in attack.

“That’s borne out of the system that he has come up in, in New Zealand ,which would be a lot different to the defensive systems here in the UK and Ireland. I have been working with him and I know the Ireland guys have been doing the same.


“He has always been a good footballer. Obviously he is a finisher because he is powerful and he is good when he gets the ball in his hands. If you did decision-making exercises, or ‘three-on-twos’ he is very comfortable at first receiver. He can be elusive, good with the ball in hand and with his offloading game as well. It’s great to see him get his opportunity; he’s an infectious personality.”

Scottish party poopers

Scotland have spoiled one or two Irish rugby parties in the professional era and two spring to mind. In 2001, they inflicted the only Six Nations defeat (32-10 in Murrayfield) on Warren Gatland's team in a tournament in which Ireland's last three matches were played in the autumn because of the foot-and-mouth crisis. Ireland finished second behind England, whom they memorably beat to deny Clive Woodward's side a Grand Slam.

Of more recent vintage was Scotland's 23-20 win in the Irish rugby team's final match at Croke Park, the national side accommodated at GAA headquarters while the Aviva stadium was built. Tommy Bowe was the last player to score a try in a Test match at the iconic venue but Dan Parks, the Australian-born former Connacht player spoiled the Irish farewell by kicking five penalties and a drop goal – John Beattie crossed for an early try – including the match winner in the 78th minute.

Numbers don’t stack in anniversary tribute

Scotland's victory over England on the opening weekend of the Six Nations represented the 150th anniversary of the first rugby match played between the countries in 1871. To commemorate the occasion, the current Scotland team carried the names of those who played in that first ever game.

There was only one snag. In 1871 it was a 20-a-side game with 14 forwards and six backs compared to the current matchday squad of 23. Two were easily allocated, captain Stuart Hogg carried the name of his contemporary from 150 years ago, Francis Montcreiff, while Finn Russell's shirt was embroidered with the goalkicker in 1871, William Cross. This column is not sure which of the current Scottish squad missed out but David Edge the team manager had the final say.

Number of the day: 41

The number of penalties that Eddie Jones’s England team has conceded in the Six Nations Championship to date with two matches to come against France and Ireland.

Quote of the day

"Ireland are a quality side. The way they're talking and the way they've been playing, they seem to be in a really strong, confident place at the minute, so there's a hell of a battle coming up this weekend." Scotland's Sam Skinner is back in the national squad and looking forward to the weekend.

On this day: March 10th, 1956

Ireland inflicted the only defeat on the eventual Five Nations Championship winners Wales at Lansdowne Road. The visitors were chasing a Triple Crown having beaten Scotland and England but Ireland won 11-3, scoring the only try of the game through flanker Marnie Cunningham.

It was the last of seven caps for Cunningham, who aged 22, gave up rugby to enter the priesthood; one of two, Monsignor Tom Gavin is the other, to have played rugby for Ireland. Educated at Pres Cork, Cunningham studied Civil Engineering at UCC and graduated in 1956 before moving to England.

While a clerical student at Upholland College in Lancashire, he captained the college soccer team. The Irish Times noted in his obituary: “A man of immense humility and kindness, he subsequently became parish priest at St Charles, Swinton, Lancashire.

“He retained a love for rugby, a game to which his family has made an outstanding contribution. His younger brother Joe also played for Munster, and Joe’s son Paul became the third generation to play for Munster and also won a cap for Ireland A.”