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Dublin: 6 °C Friday 19 October, 2018

'He never stops talking on the pitch': Lowe's infectious energy propelling Leinster into Europe

The 25-year-old Kiwi has wasted no time settling in at his new club and is poised to make his mark on the Champions Cup.

BY ALL ACCOUNTS, by the time James Lowe finished the final bars of his rap duet of ‘Colt 45′ with Vakh Abdaladze, he had already fully settled and acclimatised to life in Leinster.

Niall Rynne with Vakh Abdaladze and James Lowe after making their debuts Leinster President Niall Rynne with Vakh Abdaladze and James Lowe after they made their debuts. Source: Elena Barbini/INPHO

The Kiwi, who will qualify to play for Ireland if he sees out his three-year contract, will be added to the province’s European squad today fresh from a two-try debut in Treviso. That’s bad news for Leinster’s Champions Cup pool rivals, a fresh injection of energy and enthusiasm just when the eastern province could have been forgiven for easing off the pedal slightly after racking up a maximum 10 points from their opening two outings.

“He’s full of energy, absolutely full of energy,” says backs coach Girvan Dempsey, his eyes lighting up at the mention of Lowe’s infectious personality.

He just bounces into the place in the morning and just loves the game. He loves training, he’s vocal in meetings, he’s happy to share and he’s settled in really well.  It’s brilliant, he’s a great addition to our squad.”

Even the harsh reality of Pro14 rugby – a dull, wet night in Treviso – did little to the new recruit’s mood according to Luke McGrath, who supplied the pass that opened Lowe’s account before getting the favour returned in the second half.

“He never stops talking on the pitch, but you can see what he can do…  he’s brought a freshness to the squad, new ideas in the back-line, counter-attacking and things like that. “e can only improve from it.”

That debut double was commendable, but on top of Lowe’s powerful finishes into the left corner and his assist for the grateful McGrath, the 25-year-old Nelson native was constantly involved in Leinster’s attack and intent on not letting the game pass him by.

“He is mad keen,” adds Dempsey, “he doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed. He wants to be involved in the game. He wants to get his hands on the ball.”

James Lowe is tackled by Giorgio Bronzini Source: Elena Barbini/INPHO

That extra energy and a sense of point to prove ought could be invaluable for Leinster when they are there to be shot at by a brilliant Chiefs side lurking just two points back in pool 3 and never lacking confidence in fortress Sandy Park.

Dempsey makes sure to name-check all the fresh homegrown faces options available to him and Leo Cullen on the wing for Sunday’s clash with the English champions. But even allowing for a bedding-in period or a time for Lowe to familiarise himself with Leinster’s game, this fixture looks tailor made to set him loose in,  precisely the sort of match that Leinster brought their marquee signing in for.

They have taken their time and done their homework before taking Lowe to the northern hemisphere, so Cullen will be best-placed to know what he’s capable of at this juncture.

“We’d spoken to a number of Kiwi guys who have played with him and also played against him,” says Dempsey.

“When you’re signing a foreign player, with the limited opportunity we have, you have to make sure you have got the right one. We’d have done a lot of homework, gone through a lot of footage – playing for Tasman and the Chiefs and looking at areas of his game, so he was great.

“When he came in he was surprised at how much we knew about him and we knew his game.”

“Leo’s had numerous conversations with him regularly over the time. Then, there is relocation. We’ve got some really good guys behind the scenes, who support in terms of finding a house. Just seeing was he happy as a bloke, is he fitting in?

“He has settled in really well. He is one of the guys straight away, straight into the dressing-room singing a song after.”

James Lowe during the warm up Source: Elena Barbini/INPHO

“You saw what he showed at the weekend, his strength on the ball, his skill level. He’s obviously been coached by (former Chiefs, current Glasgow coach) Dave Rennie for years. A lot of Dave’s ideas and philosophies have rubbed off on him. He brings that.”

“I think he is a very accomplished left winger and he’s shown it. Every player has a weakness. He knows them and he’s working on them.

“When you go into a new environment, we don’t play the same way as The Chiefs. Our systems are different. Out attack and defence systems are different. He has got to adapt to those. It does take time.”

That’s Dempsey’s effort to pour a little cold water on the excitement building to see a star of Super Rugby show his wares in Europe. Leave tempering expectations to coaches, though. Fans and players can get excited.

“You can see his quality in training,” nods Jack Conan, “he’s got some X Factor to him, he’s a big man who can shift, and some great finishing on the weekend.

“If he gets the nod this weekend it will be great to see what he can do on the bigger stage.”

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Sean Farrell

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