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'It would be a fantastic honour for him' - Ireland qualification in sight for Lowe

The Leinster wing will be eligible from this November.

IF TEST RUGBY does return by November of this year, Andy Farrell will be able to call on a very exciting new addition to his options out wide.

Leinster wing James Lowe qualifies to play for Ireland in early November, leaving him in line to be selected for the scheduled fixtures against Australia, South Africa and Japan.

There is a possibility, of course, that those games won’t go ahead as planned but it is a definite that Lowe becomes Irish-qualified after three years of residency on Irish soil.

james-lowe James Lowe qualifies for Ireland before the November Tests. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The 27-year-old is one of the very last players who will become eligible for Test rugby with just three years of residency, with World Rugby having changed the requirement to five years since Lowe’s move to Leinster from his native New Zealand.  

While admitting he thinks the three-year rule was “stupid” and “weird,” Lowe has already vowed to give his all in the green jersey if selected.

“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.”

Given the scale of his impact for Leinster, with 28 tries in 43 starts over the last three seasons, it seems obvious that Lowe – who previously played for New Zealand Schools and the Māori All Blacks – will feature for Ireland when he becomes eligible.

Ireland boss Farrell is likely to welcome additional competition for places in his back three, where Lowe looks set to compete with the likes of Jacob Stockdale, Andrew Conway, and Keith Earls for a place on the wing.

Leinster, meanwhile, face the prospect of having another player away for international games and training on a regular basis, joining what is already always a large cohort of their players in missing provincial games.

james-lowe Lowe is a prolific try-scorer. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Again, it will be intriguing to note which players step up if Lowe – who has played the second-highest number of minutes for Leinster this season – does become part of the Ireland squad and is affected by the player management protocols that go along with that status.

Dave Kearney has had an excellent season for Leinster, but 33-year-old Fergus McFadden and 27-year-old Barry Daly have had injury issues during this campaign, Daly only recently making a comeback to club rugby.

25-year-old Cian Kelleher and 26-year-old Adam Byrne, who has been capped by Ireland, will be hopeful of pushing on out wide for Leinster, while academy wing Aaron O’Sullivan – who has been with the Ireland 7s – will also be keen to make progress.

Whatever happens with Leinster, head coach Leo Cullen said the province would be delighted to see Lowe making the step into Test rugby with Ireland if he’s picked later this year.

“We always celebrate anyone who we lose to Ireland,” said Cullen. “It’s not like we lose them, it’s kind of like you gain an international player when they come back. That would be the hope.

“Plus, then you gain the opportunity for someone else to play and represent Leinster. And that’s another chance to grow competition and depth.

james-lowe Lowe joined Leinster from the Chiefs in 2017. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“The minutes are so valuable. The players know that every time they literally have a minute on the playing field and how heavily it is scrutinised by us as coaches.

“We want guys to give a strong account of themselves.

“I would never bemoan a guy getting called into camp because that’s what it is all about.

“We want our players to go on and represent whatever team that is at the highest level possible.

“If James becomes qualified to play for Ireland in November and he was selected, it would be a fantastic honour for him, but it would also be a fantastic honour for all of us at the club as well.”  

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Murray Kinsella

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