To the trained eye of James Lowe, Ireland's picture perfect performance against New Zealand could hang in the National Gallery. The aestheticisation of aggressive confrontation in high culture has been around for aeons.
“If you break it down, defence wins the game. Everyone talks about the set piece play. Don’t get me wrong it was a work of art,” says Lowe.
The Leinster winger played with and against many of the team Ireland defeated in Aviva and watched the match with his family. His father, who was 60-years-old on Saturday, supported his son's two camp thinking.
“Yep, dad had one of my old NZ [New Zealand] tops and an Irish beanie on, it’s a little mixed obviously,” he explains. “I have friends in both sides, so either way I was going to be happy. Take the jersey off we’re still mates.”
Lowe made his decision before he moved to Ireland to put his family ahead of his New Zealand aspirations when weighing up his move to Leinster. He left Super Rugby side Chiefs saying that he put his dreams of playing for the All Blacks aside. He will be Irish qualified in another year and until then has to roster his runs with the Leinster team.
"I played with a fair few," he says. "Bundee [Aki], with and against. Brodie Retallick. Liam Squire, Ardie Savea, Damien McKenzie, Anton Lienert Brown, Nathan Harris [in the squad], you know everyone. TJ was my NZ schools captain. Ofa tu'ungafasi.
“We’re still good mates, keep in touch, give each other stick. We went out to Krispy Kreme, they were staying in Blanchardstown. Nothing changes. We were always going to find a donut parlour.”
‘An awesome performance’
Disarmingly flippant, he has been an exciting live wire on the pitch with a nose for the line and a unique charge of energy that infects the fans. Johnny Sexton last month offered advice to Leinster that they wrap him up for five or six years. Lowe scored two of the eight tries against Wasps in a European 52-3 shellacking.
His Kiwi blood appreciates fight and how Ireland stood up to an All Black team that packs intimidation and force in their locker room arsenal.
“It was an awesome performance and something Ireland should be proud of. They’ve dominated the northern hemisphere for so long,” he says.
“Defence won that game. It’s what you have to do against the All Blacks. You have to starve them of the ball and be clinical with it. The Irish forward pack definitely stood up.
"They were smashing people left, right and centre. Rory Best, holy crap, when he put a shot on Brodie, it sent shivers down my spine and I was blooming halfway up the stands."
With that comes a caveat of sorts. Springboks and former Munster coach, Rassie Erasmus this week warned that beating New Zealand will only make it harder for Ireland as they build towards next year's World Cup in Japan.
Pointing out that England nearly cracked their system a couple of weeks ago in driving rain and that Scotland almost did it last year, Lowe agrees that the win could queer the pitch.
“It’s an awesome time for them [New Zealand] to lose, to really put things into perspective and understand that there’s a storm coming from the north,” he says. “They’ll learn from that and they will come back another beast.
“They don’t go back and say ‘oh we just slipped up this time, water under the bridge.’ They’ll definitely learn, and come back with a bit of bite. I mean it might have been the wake-up call they needed.”
This Friday though Leinster return with Ospreys. Dan Leavy has strained his neck and is unavailable, while Seán O'Brien had surgery for a forearm injury sustained in Ireland's match against Argentina. He will be out for eight to 12 weeks.
Robbie Henshaw is undergoing rehabilitation for a hamstring strain. He will be out for a period of four to six weeks. It was also confirmed that Joe Tomane will be out for up to five months with a hamstring injury. There was no update on Fergus McFadden (hamstring), Rory O'Loughlin (knee), Will Connors (ACL) and Barry Daly (knee).