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'I have broken it so far down' - James Lowe fine-tuning his kicking game for Test rugby

The Ireland wing has also learned that ‘mistakes are amplified’ on the international stage.

Ireland wing James Lowe put his left boot to good use in Cardiff.
Ireland wing James Lowe put his left boot to good use in Cardiff.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

LIFE IN THE Ireland bubble could make anybody feel a long way from home, so James Lowe could do without the notifications that have been popping up on his phone recently. This time last year he had no Six Nations to worry about, and had just returned from a trip home to New Zealand.

Shortly after he came back to Dublin the shutters went up on life as we knew it and he found himself in lockdown on the other side of the world from his family. A brief trip home in the summer helped ease any concerns, but it’s still been a challenging year for the Leinster and Ireland wing, who on Sunday got his first taste of Six Nations rugby.

“I’m actually getting memories on my smartphone at the moment of riding a jet-ski and being on beaches in 30 degree weather a year ago. It’s been an absolute whirlwind of a year,” he says.

“It’s been completely different, but you know, you embrace the challenge.

“Like, New Zealand is a fully functioning place at the moment. So it’s nice to know that my family and my parents are all healthy and safe. That’s the one good thing.

“On the flip-side, my girlfriend is at home by herself. She’s been there for the last two-and-a-half weeks, gets a bit of cabin fever, missing people obviously. I call her every morning on the way in and on the way out (of training). I feel a bit gutted for her more than anything, (at least) I get to socialise with 30-odd dudes every day.” 

james-lowe Lowe during Ireland squad training in Abbotstown. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

At this stage Lowe is nicely settled into life in the Irish camp. Sunday’s defeat to Wales was just his third international cap, but he had been in and around the squad before he became eligible to represent Ireland last November.

Andy Farrell was clearly keen to get Lowe’s explosive attacking talent into his team, but the 28-year-old has quickly learned of the extra scrutiny that comes with playing Test rugby. His defensive game has been questioned before and was highlighted again last weekend. For Wales’ first try his positioning provided space for George North step inside to cross. When Louis Rees-Zammit scored the home side’s second, Tadhg Furlong ended up the closest player to the 20-year-old after Lowe and Garry Ringrose had both stepped up on North.

“Obviously, mistakes are amplified aren’t they? That’s the big thing,” Lowe says.

“The small margins, that’s huge. Doesn’t matter if someone said I’d almost 200 carry metres on the weekend, but unfortunately it was 20 metres down my sideline and one of them resulted in a try. That’s the big difference at the end of the day. Something I’ll definitely work on.”

An 11-week injury lay-off wasn’t ideal preparation for Cardiff, but Lowe insists he came into the Six Nations “fit and firing”, and Ireland supporters will hope he grows into the tournament over the coming weeks.

His unquestionable ability with ball in hand hasn’t quite come to the fore with Ireland just yet, but he’s made notable contributions in other departments. His impressive kicking game is a useful addition to any backline, as demonstrated by the booming kick he sent from inside the Ireland 22 which got his team up the pitch and ultimately led to Tadhg Beirne’s first-half try. 

We’ve seen that left boot put to good use countless time with Leinster, but he’s made an effort to fine-tune it for the international stage. 

“I’ve always been a decent kicker of a ball,” he explains.

“At international level there is more pressure coming, so we really had to shorten a lot of my steps leading into the kick. I thought that I needed to have a massive run-up and get momentum for the ball to actually fly. I have broken it so far down, to making sure that I am catching it static, taking one or two steps, and getting a full kick through.

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“I’ve been trying to perfect that for so long, it was nice to get a couple of nice ones off the laces at the weekend. If you can add that string to the bow, if it helps the team to get into some of the right areas in the field that is what I am going to keep on doing.”

This weekend brings France to Dublin, and it’s not surprising that Lowe is a big fan of the way Les Bleus are currently playing the game.

“It’s expansive footy, isn’t it? Man, they’ve got some terrific athletes. I mean, Dupont at No 9, Teddy Thomas on the wing. On the other wing (Villiere), he’s half the size of me and he’s hitting people bigger than me, getting turnovers at the ruck. It’s quite scary to see! You don’t normally see that, especially where I try and hang out.

“They played very, very well against Italy, scored some amazing tries and defended very, very well.” 

That said, he sees holes Ireland can target.

You look at all those positives but everyone has got a weakness as well so it’s about trying to exploit them. I mean the French defensive system… huge line speed, trying to shut them down from the outside, the centres get very high but that also leaves gaps elsewhere if you can punch a line inside, then get quick ball and all of a sudden, they’re on the back foot and in two minds whether to come forward or go back.

“There’s always pluses to minuses of every defensive (system), so that’s what we’re going to try and exploit, for sure.”

Always the optimist.    

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey preview Ireland-France and give their thoughts on an eventful week from Cardiff onwards:


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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