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'I don't think there's going to be much rugby played': Lowe hopes to see 'Boks topple England

The Leinster wing was disappointed to read about the All Blacks’ struggle against England.

WHILE THE MAJORITY of his fellow countrymen and women watched on as they crashed out to England in the World Cup semi-final last Saturday, New Zealander James Lowe was a relatively casual follower of the action in Yokohama.

“I’m not a big rugby watcher, if you do it 24/7. It’s interesting and I was intrigued by the result. I watched a lot of highlights, but I was buying a washing machine at the time of the game and watched the second half in an electronic store,” the Leinster wing explained in UCD on Monday.

Still, the former Tasman Makos star saw more than enough to offer an honest assessment of the All Blacks’ surprise exit in Japan.

“Beforehand I was saying New Zealand would have won that, but England came in with a pretty decent gameplan. New Zealand played into their hands, kicking out every time they got the ball. England, very much like Saracens, they’ve a very good set piece. Their line-out functioned very well.

“New Zealand putting Scott Barrett in at six, probably to try and stop their line-out momentum, they only got one steal from that. Looking back they’ll probably think Sam Cane could have made a big difference physically.

“Don’t get me wrong, Scott Barrett didn’t play bad. He chased down [Johnny May] on the wing. They’ll be scratching their heads at what they could have done better, but England on the day were much better.”

With three of the four Rugby Championship nations – Argentina, Australia and New Zealand – already accounted for, Eddie Jones’ England are fully deserving of the favourites’ tag heading into Saturday’s final with South Africa in Yokohama.

Lowe gives the Springboks a fighting chance of claiming the Webb Ellis Cup for the third time in their history – though he admits that may be in hope rather than expectation.

I don’t like the English, you know! Since coming over here it seems to be a common theme among many Irish people! I hope South Africa do win. I’m a little bit biased obviously, but it’s going to be some ask.

“I don’t think there’s going to be much rugby played. South Africa will play the way they did against Wales. Kick the ball a lot, apply pressure when they can. I think [Cheslin] Kolbe coming back hopefully will bring some spark to that backline. Damien De Allende, man, he’s playing very, very well. The forward pack should front up physically. The South Africans are big boys.”

An immensely popular figure with the Leinster faithful, Lowe will become Irish-qualified in November 2020. By then, Andy Farrell will have a full Six Nations Championship campaign and a summer tour of Australia under his belt as Irish coach.

There have been calls for Ireland to switch to a more expansive style of rugby in the wake of Joe Schmidt’s departure and Lowe feels the tried and trusted formula ultimately worked against them during their World Cup exit to the All Blacks.

james-lowe Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“The game’s ever evolving. Teams are always trying out different things to see what works. New Zealand picked them apart, they knew what was coming because nothing had changed. Ireland played so well when everything stuck last time, in the Aviva in November, but New Zealand saw that,” said Lowe, who has accumulated 21 tries in 32 appearances to date for Leinster.

“They kicked them apart early with a couple of cross-field kicks and then all of a sudden as a winger you’re thinking, ‘Shite, am I going to sprint up here and try and smack someone, or will they put it over my head?’

“That puts doubts in Rob [Kearney]’s mind. Then all of a sudden, they throw a skip ball. Garry [Ringrose] shoots up and they just play it out the back and pick them apart that way. New Zealand managed to do that very well.”

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