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'I reckon I've got a target on my back!' - Lowe loves first taste of Test rugby

The Leinster wing got stuck in against Wales and is now targeting a win in Twickenham.

Lowe was impressive on his Ireland debut last Friday.
Lowe was impressive on his Ireland debut last Friday.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

WHEN JAMES LOWE found out he would be making his Ireland debut against Wales last weekend, he texted his dad to let him know the good news.

The message he got back was simply a thumbs-up emoji.

“He’s a pretty quiet man,” says Lowe with a smile. “At the best of times, he holds his cards pretty close.

“But I got a heartfelt message from him and the rest of the family later on. It’s a very cool feeling, that’s for sure.”

Back home in New Zealand, they were thrilled. And very, very proud.

Kick-off was at 8am Kiwi time so they didn’t have to haul themselves out of bed in the middle of the night to watch his Ireland debut.

“They are absolutely stoked,” continues Lowe. “At the end of the game, I would be happy if I knew the people around me were going to be super proud.

“Emotionally, physically, mentally, it was just about channeling that into making sure my first chance to impact the game was a good one and let it flow on from there.”

Lowe certainly didn’t hang about in getting stuck in last Friday night, chasing down two early Ireland kicks to apply pressure, as well as getting involved in some of the niggle that was apparent between the two teams.

“I dunno, mate, I reckon I’ve got a target on my back!” says Lowe. “I don’t know what’s going on but you’ve got to front-foot that sort of stuff right from the get-go.

“I mean at the end of the day, we’re wearing a green top, they’re wearing a red top – that’s why we don’t like each other, that’s it. Off the field, we’re all normal people, we’re all decent blokes, we all want the same thing.”

Lowe has always been one to spark off the opposition, getting in their faces and rarely backing away.

james-lowe-celebrates-scoring-their-second-try-with-caelan-doris Lowe scored a late try on debut against Wales. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Munster have had gripes with him over the years, so his acclimatisation into Ireland camp over the weeks before his debut had partly been about building a few relationships in that sense.

“The only thing that we don’t like about each other is that we wear different coloured tops on a Saturday – that’s literally the only thing.

“For 80 minutes, you’re going to hate each other but at the end of the day, the reason why you don’t like each other is because you’re wearing a different coloured jumper. They’re all decent blokes.

“You’d speak to Sexto [Johnny Sexton] and he’d be like, ‘Look, Peter O’Mahony is one of the nicest blokes you’ll ever meet, wait until you get to meet him,’ but then you play against him and, man, I just want to run over him. I just want to chirp at him.

“At the end of the day, that’s footy but, no, they’re all great blokes. It’s just a shame they wear a red jumper!”

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Ireland boss Andy Farrell had integrated Lowe into the Ireland set-up from the start of this autumn campaign despite the Leinster wing not being eligible until last Friday.

That meant Lowe got to understand the calls and tactical plans nice and early, but also meant he had to deal with an “eerie tension” as he awaited the debut.

For it to go so smoothly against the Welsh was highly pleasing and Lowe capped the night off with a try in the last minute, finishing powerfully off Caelan Doris’ short pass.

“That’s literally what you dream about: scoring on debut,” says Lowe, who had a few excellent kicks too.

“As that scrum was packing down, I was talking to Caelan – who had a barnstorming game as well – and if I hadn’t told him to pass, he was never going to pass it.

james-lowe The 28-year-old is set for his second cap against England. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“Then the scrum sort of reset, I went back and talked to him, I was like, ‘Look, we’re gonna get channel one, you’re gonna break off this, the 10 is gonna jump at ya but I’m gonna be right there so please pass me the ball’ and he did, and credit to him.

“I give him a lot of stick but that’s because I know how good he is and how good he’s going to be.”

Lowe knows well that he has a tougher test ahead this weekend at Twickenham.

“This is going to be a completely different beast,” says the 28-year-old. “Don’t get me wrong, Wales are obviously a very strong international team but obviously haven’t had the form of late.

“To play England at Twickenham, it’s huge and it’s something that you’re either on the front foot or you’re on the back foot. We’ll get on with the plan, so will they, but emotionally, physically and mentally if we get all our ducks in a row I don’t see why we can’t go over there and knock them over.

“They’ll be saying the same thing in their camp so you can focus on them as much as you want but really we need to put in a decent performance to come out on top.”

Ireland will be without their captain in Johnny Sexton but Lowe says Ireland will be fine.

“Who? Yeah mate, we’re grand. He didn’t die, he’s still in the building, he’s going to be barking at us all week as he always does but that’s because he really cares.

“Mate, he’s so emotional about this team it’s actually… mate, every time he talks about Ireland and when he’s disappointed in himself, he gets so emotional but that’s because he cares so much.

“So trust me, he’ll be everywhere around the HPC [high performance centre] this week to make sure we all know our stuff. Obviously, he’s been there and done it so he’s a man that knows how to do it, so I’ll definitely be in his ear trying to get a few nuggets of gold, that’s for sure.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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