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James Lowe 'a great tonic for Irish rugby' as November qualification looms
Ireland boss Andy Farrell has been impressed with many elements of the Leinster wing’s game.

IRELAND HEAD COACH Andy Farrell is hopeful James Lowe can return to action with Leinster in his very best form as the wing looks to press home his claim for an international debut in November.

The New Zealand native qualifies for Ireland early in November after three years of residency on these shores and is set to be eligible in time for the start of the new ‘Eight Nations’ competition which is due to run from 7 November through to 5 December.

Lowe’s excellent performances for Leinster since arriving in 2017 have thrilled the province’s fans and he is expected to be firmly in the mix for Ireland later this year.

james-lowe Ryan Byrne / INPHO Lowe qualifies for Ireland early in November. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

The 28-year-old is now back in pre-season training with Leinster after returning home to New Zealand for personal reasons, and Lowe will be aiming to pick up where he left off when rugby resumes later this month with the inter-pro fixtures and Pro14 play-offs.

So far, the former Chiefs man has scored 28 tries in 43 starts for Leinster, while his defensive game has steadily improved as he has adapted to the demands of the province’s system.

“He’s been great, he’s been a great tonic for Irish rugby really and he’s played some outstanding rugby over the years,” said Ireland boss Farrell today.

“Like everyone else, we’ll see how he comes back and how he performs in the early parts of the season and there are plenty of big games in which he can put up his hand. He is the same position as everyone else.

“He is available from the beginning of November and we need to make sure we get selection correct accordingly and he will be part of our plans in the same way as everyone else is.

“He’s a big guy, he’s strong, he loves getting on the ball as much as he can, he comes off his wing, he is hungry for the ball, he doesn’t like getting tackled that much, he has a great left boot and he is good in the air as well.

“He’s a great all-round player and I’m sure he can see parts of his game where there is room for improvement as well. Hopefully we can see him in top form so he can push his claims for selection.”

Lowe, who previously played for the Māori All Blacks against Munster and the Lions but is not tied to New Zealand, has indicated that he believes the three-year residency rule is “stupid” and “weird,” but vowed to represent Ireland with pride if called upon.

james-lowe-celebrates-after-the-game Dan Sheridan / INPHO Farrell has been impressed with many aspects of Lowe's game. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“If I was given the opportunity, I’d do it full-heartedly,” said Lowe last year. “I wouldn’t leave people wondering if I was giving it my all. It’d be 100% for Ireland.”

Lowe – who usually plays on the left wing – will have plenty of competition for a spot in Ireland’s back three. Jacob Stockdale is the incumbent in the number 11 shirt, while the likes of Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Jordan Larmour, and Will Addison are sure to be firmly in Farrell’s thoughts when it comes to picking his frontline back three.

Meanwhile, Farrell welcomed Leinster coach Leo Cullen’s confirmation that second row James Ryan’s recovery from a shoulder injury is proceeding smoothly.

Cullen clarified yesterday that Ryan is due to be back in action in September, leaving the second row in line to continue as a central figure for Ireland this autumn.

“He’s certainly a great player, one who has come on with massive strides over the last few years,” said Farrell of Ryan. “He’d be a loss to any team, internationally as well.

“He was one of those players who used the Covid lockdown time to its maximum. He came back in great shape and it was unfortunate with his injury to have a little bit of a setback but knowing James he will use this time wisely to better himself as a rugby player and as a person.

“It looks like, with the timeframes in front of us, that he could be back for the internationals and hopefully a few big games for Leinster before that. We’ll see how he gets on with his rehab and let him get on with it.”

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