The Offload: James Lowe thrilled to give something back with Clondalkin link-up

Hawkshaws point the way for Clontarf . . . Will Ealing’s Irish be denied Premiership chance?

The players and supporters of Clondalkin rugby club will have enjoyed James Lowe’s two tries against Munster having watched ‘one of their own’ produce such a high-quality performance. While other players in the Leinster squad are attached to senior clubs, Lowe plumped for Clondalkin.

He explained: “I’d rather go to the team that doesn’t have much going [for it compared to the big senior ones]. They have Jack McGrath’s brother-in-law [Conor Corcoran] playing for Clondalkin and Jack was like, ‘put down Clondalkin’ and I did and all of a sudden there’s people at the games now that come up to me with Clondalkin tops.

"No it's cool, it's a weird way of giving back, but if some kid goes, 'James Lowe is in Clondalkin' and it puts a smile on a few kids' faces, that's all I ask for in return." He turned up at a junior fixture, quietly standing on the sideline watching until recognised and then signing autographs and stepping into pictures after the game.

Hawkshaw family point the way for in-form Clontarf

"Well done! Can I play next week?" Sarah Hawkshaw posted on Twitter in a tongue-in-cheek homily to a family milestone at the weekend. The Irish hockey international was acknowledging the achievement of her three brothers, David, Daniel and James, who clubbed together to provide 30 of Clontarf's 40 points in an Energia All-Ireland League Division 1A win over Ballynahinch.

Daniel, playing inside centre, scored two tries, Jimmy, who lined out on the left wing and outhalf David crossed for one apiece, while the latter also kicked five conversions in a 40-14 victory at Castle Avenue.

The talented family is no stranger to landmark achievements. David captained the all-conquering 2019 Ireland under-20 Grand Slam-winning team. Having led the team to victories over England (35-27) at Musgrave Park, Scotland (24-5, Netherdale) and Italy (34-14, Rieti), he suffered an horrific knee injury in training in the build-up to the French game, one that would keep him out of the game for 18 months.

He was on hand in his civvies to lift the trophy with stand-in captain Charlie Ryan after the team's fifth victory over Wales in Colwyn Bay. The 22-year-old has agreed to join Connacht for next season. His younger brother Daniel (19) is also an under-20 Six Nations Grand Slam winner, having been part of Richie Murphy's squad that won this year's tournament.

Daniel played in the centre in Ireland’s first victory on French soil since 2012 in a 17-16 win in Aix-en-Provence. Clontarf have a 13-point lead at the top of the table with one round of fixtures to go in the league stage and will enjoy a home semi-final in the knock-out stage of the competition.

Premiership dream might be denied to Ealing’s Irish contingent

Ealing Trailfinders were confirmed as English Championship champions following their 60-10 victory over Richmond at the weekend, holding off the challenge of Doncaster in one of the most exciting title tussles in years.

Munster academy prospect David Johnson was at fullback, but there is quite an Irish flavour at Ealing with David's brother, Bill, Cian Kelleher, Angus Kernohan, Stephen Kerins and Shane Buckley also on the roster, while Tadhg McElroy is on a season-long loan at London Irish. The former Ulster academy manager and ex Irish Under-20 head coach, Kieran Campbell, joined the London club last summer as a coach.

However, the news of the club’s victory was tempered a little last month when the English RFU announced that Ealing and Doncaster, the only two clubs to apply to be eligible for promotion to the Premiership, had failed the minimum standards criteria, the main sticking point of which demands a home ground with a capacity of 10,001. It means that the coterie of Irish players won’t get a chance to play in the Premiership as things stand.

The English RFU insist that the stadium capacity is only one of a number of issues but there seems little doubt that the 13 Premiership clubs don't want to admit another member unless, as Gerard Meagher wrote in the Guardian: "Should the promoted club be willing to pay north of £20 million for a slice of P shares – currently split between the 13 clubs – it may be a different story but the message seems clear that second-tier clubs wanting to chance their arm in the Premiership are not welcome.

“A moratorium on relegation was introduced last season and the plan was for the winners of this season’s Championship to go up into a 14-team Premiership. The 2022-23 season would see no relegation or promotion, giving Ealing or Doncaster a season’s grace – before a playoff between the bottom team in the Premiership and the winners of the Championship was introduced the following season.”

The RFU ruling that Ealing and Doncaster failed the criteria means that they are no longer eligible for promotion to the Premiership. Both clubs plan to appeal the decision.

Quote

“There is more to come from this Irish side, and I just hope people out there stay patient because you have to be very proud of the girls and their efforts. That’s all I can ask as a coach.” – Ireland coach Greg McWilliams asks for understanding following a 40-5 defeat to France in the Women’s Six Nations Championship.

Number: 70

The number of Leinster Schools Senior Cup titles that Blackrock have won following their latest success at the RDS, five more than the rest of the schools combined who have managed to win the competition.