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Lowe's Leinster debut on hold as Kiwi continues 'bedding-in' process

The 25-year-old has arrived in Dublin but Leinster fans will have to wait at least another week to see him in blue.

James Lowe at Leinster squad training yesterday.
James Lowe at Leinster squad training yesterday.
Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

JAMES LOWE TOOK part in his first Leinster squad session in UCD yesterday, but the Kiwi back is unlikely to make his debut for the province when the Dragons visit the RDS on Friday evening.

After signing a three-year contract with Leinster back in March, Lowe’s arrival had been delayed due to his commitments with Tasman in the Mitre 10 Cup and fans will have to wait another week at least to see him in blue.

Lowe linked up with Leo Cullen’s squad last week and was involved in Monday’s session but is unavailable for selection as he continues his bedding-in process after a long season with the Chiefs and Tasman.

“He has just got himself on the training field so it’s unlikely he’ll be available this week,” Stuart Lancaster said at yesterday’s media briefing.

“We need to get him bedded into the systems and structures of the way we play. He’s a good guy and has a made a positive impact around the group. He’s in that process I was in when I first arrived of learning 60 players’ and 30 coaches’ names.”

Lowe enjoyed a sensational season with the Chiefs in Super Rugby and Leinster fans will need no introduction to his talents having emerged as one of the most exciting young wingers in New Zealand over the last few seasons.

His arrival represents a significant boost for Leinster and will only strengthen an already in-form and competitive backline, with Lowe’s versatility adding another weapon to Cullen’s armoury.

“He roams a lot in attack which is a real strength actually,” Lancaster continues. “He reminds me a little bit of Jack Nowell and the way he plays for Exeter and England where we see him popping up all over the place and making a difference.

“He’ll definitely be an asset and obviously he’s a big guy so he’ll add physicality and he’s quick. It’s just trying to get that balance right to make sure he works within the attacking systems and similarly in defence as well.

“He’s used to defending in a different system out in New Zealand, they tend to defend up and out. There’s a bit of work to do there but he’s a great lad, settled in well and he’s enjoying it.”

Leinster, meanwhile, are ‘optimistic’ of having both Garry Ringrose and Isa Nacewa back when the Pro14 resumes this weekend as the pair near a return to full fitness.

Isa Nacewa Isa Nacewa could return to action against the Dragons. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Ringrose was a notable presence on the training field yesterday as he resumed full contact training following a five-month lay-off post shoulder surgery and could make his first appearance of the season against Dragons.

Like Nacewa, the young centre will need to come through this week’s sessions unscathed to convince Cullen he’s ready to be thrown back in.

“He was doing some on-field sessions last week so he’ll be back training fully,” Lancaster said of Ringrose.

“This week our plan is, we’re training Monday, Tuesday off, Wednesday, obviously captain’s run is Thursday and we play Friday.

“He looked good last week. He hasn’t done any real contact in training just yet so that will be Monday and Wednesday. Realistically, if he doesn’t play this week, he will definitely play next week.

“The key thing for us with the two Pro14 games, and we’ve got Exeter coming around the corner as well, we’re optimistic. He’s in a good place. He’s made a good recovery and he’s certainly looking sharp on the training field.”

On Nacewa — whose season has been disrupted by injury — Lancaster added: “Pretty optimistic on him. His was a syndesmosis of the ankle. Again, he’s similar to Garry last week in that he did some parts of the sessions. He’ll train today, fingers crossed he comes through okay.

“The reality is, normally we would select our side on a Monday but we’re still waiting on the Ireland selection which is then has a knock-on effect to who comes back into contention for us for this game on Friday.”

Leinster resume their campaign ahead of another crucial block of fixtures, which includes those Champions Cup clashes with Exeter, and then a key period in the Pro14 ahead of the festive and New Year interpros.

Stuart Lancaster Lancaster is expecting a tough game at the RDS. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

The fixture list has been kind with the visit of Dragons a relatively straightforward way to ease back into the swing of things after the two-week November break, although Lancaster is quick to point out Bernard Jackman’s side are coming off the back of a victory over Scarlets in the Anglo-Welsh Cup last weekend.

Leinster opened their campaign with a bonus-point win over Dragons at Rodney Parade and even though the Welsh outfit have won just twice in their eight outings, the hosts expect a stiffer challenge in round nine.

“It’s a tricky game for us in that we can’t select our side until a little later in the week,” the senior coach warned. “It does have a knock-on effect into how cohesive you can get.

“The other thing is obviously, we’re back after a week break. We had a week off, then a rugby week. The Dragons have played two Anglo-Welsh games.

“So they will have momentum, cohesion and confidence, they beat Scarlets at the weekend and our job is to get the players up to speed as quickly as we can — once we know for sure what the exact make up of the team will be and that won’t be until Wednesday.

“It sounds daft but it is quite a short preparation time to get your team. Dragons obviously will be coming here match fit, match sharp and confident.”

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