'It was the first time I've ever been dropped... It hurt very much'

James Lowe is back in the Ireland team after making tweaks to his game.

Lowe celebrates a try on debut against Wales last year.
Lowe celebrates a try on debut against Wales last year.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

THINGS STARTED SO well for James Lowe at Test level. A try on debut. A couple of searing linebreaks. Flashes of his offloading ability. And a few long kicks from his cannon of a left boot.

This was as recently as November 2020 as the Leinster man made his Ireland bow on the left wing against Wales.

A week later he started against England on a disappointing day for Andy Farrell’s side and things were less rosy for Lowe. Still, he went into the 2021 Six Nations as part of the starting XV and featured in the opening four games of the championship.

There were further flashes of his kicking game and power with ball in hand but he was underused by Ireland and a couple of defensive errors were impossible to ignore. Farrell dropped him for the closing game of the Six Nations and Lowe missed out on Ireland’s best performance as they took Eddie Jones’ England apart.

Lowe was injured in July so wasn’t in the mix to return then but he is now back in the Ireland team after being named in the number 11 shirt for Saturday’s clash with Japan.

It’s less than eight months since his last Ireland cap but 29-year-old Lowe has been on a little bit of a journey. 

“It was the first time I’ve ever been dropped,” he said today. “Obviously, it hurt very much and I don’t say that in a pr*ck of a way, but I’ve just been fortunate enough with the teams I’ve played and a lot of luck along the way that I was able to get in front of other people and stay in front.

“I say that but I also didn’t get picked in New Zealand [by the All Blacks]. Fortunately, I didn’t make the team to get dropped for that one!

“But it was an awesome learning curve and something I wouldn’t change, that’s for sure. To go away, be told you’re not good enough and ‘this is what you need to work on.’

james-lowe Lowe at Ireland training this week. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“You look yourself in the mirror and make sure that if the opportunity comes again, you’ve done the things that you’ve been asked to do.”

Speaking today, Ireland boss Farrell praised Lowe for how he responded to being left out at Test level.

“He has had a good look at himself with regards to his preparation and I think it was a little bit of a shock for him first time up with the pressures and the scrutiny of international rugby,” said the Ireland head coach.

Lowe indicated that he is now more organised in how he goes about his business when it comes to rugby.

“I guess it was to break things down and my week-to-week… not necessarily habits but more the consistency of actions. Being able to write things down, make sure I tick all of those things off, then make sure I reflect if I wasn’t able to achieve things for different reasons, and making sure I get on top of those for the following week.

“That’s all part of being a professional and probably something I was lacking for a little bit, so to hear Andy say he has seen those things is good.”

There were technical pointers from the Ireland coaches too.

“At the end of the day, you can word it whichever way you want, but it wasn’t good enough in a lot of technical areas,” explained Lowe.

“You have to go home and have a look at it and look at people who are good at it, have conversations with those people. It wasn’t good enough, and now it’s better.”

Farrell also commented that Lowe is “in great nick” and has lost a little bit of weight, prompting a joke from the Leinster man.

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“Did he say that? The b*stard!

“No, I’m actually cautious about my weight at the moment, last time I was here I was about 106kg and I’m sitting around 103.5kg at the moment. 

james-lowe Lowe's last Test was against Scotland. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“My fianceé is a whizz in the kitchen, that’s for sure, and nothing too much has changed. I guess it was more the consistency in preparation and making sure I stay on top of that. I haven’t changed too much.”

Some fans have already written Lowe off as a Test player but Farrell and co. have faith he can be a force in the green jersey.

The man himself is keen to show that there is plenty more left in him. Perform this weekend against Japan and he is in line for a shot at his native New Zealand. 

“You can’t tell me in Johnny Sexton’s first 10 games that he didn’t have harsh conversations, or Conor Murray or Cian Healy or any of these established Test match players,” said Lowe. “Everyone has been through it.

“Everyone’s got a rollercoaster of a rugby career. I’m stoked to be back, can’t wait for Saturday, can’t wait to get out and smack a few people, and put my hand up for the next few weeks.”

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella, and Gavan Casey look ahead to Ireland-Japan with the help of Japanese rugby expert Rich Freeman, while the lads also assess ‘Tier Two’ rugby two years out from the World Cup:

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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