Wednesday 26 July 2017

Lowe: Leinster move was the 'opportunity of a lifetime'

James Lowe, in action for the Chiefs, will soon be a familiar figure at the RDS. Photo: Getty
James Lowe, in action for the Chiefs, will soon be a familiar figure at the RDS. Photo: Getty
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Any Leinster fans who have been getting up early to catch a glimpse of their incoming Kiwi signing James Lowe in Super Rugby will already be excited.

This morning, a wider audience tune in to watch the Maori All Blacks take on the Lions, and the Chiefs star will be lining up at full-back against three of his future team-mates, Tadhg Furlong, Johnny Sexton and Sean O'Brien.

The all-action athlete with a wide skill-set, a distinct running style and an even more distinct hairstyle has been lighting up the season in this part of the world, but the All Black queue is a long one, and when the Irish province came calling with an offer, the 24-year-old decided it was time to see the world.

He'll arrive in time to be one of the last 'Special Project' players under the three-year residency rules before qualification period is extended to five, but he's playing his international prospects by ear.

Instead, he's focusing on the move to the other side of the globe and a chance to experience something new.

"It came around quite quick. When you're looking at going overseas you have to do your homework, and all the homework I did, everything came back positive," he said.

"I've got two friends over there in Hayden Triggs and Jamison Gibson-Park, I spoke to both of them and they spoke very highly of the club, how professional it was and what a challenging environment it is.

"That's really what I'm looking for, I feel like I've got more to give back to the game, still being relatively young, and the opportunity of a lifetime came up in one of the coolest cities in the world. You can't turn that down.

"Everyone has said that there's so much going on in Dublin.

"So I am really looking forward to it, to challenging myself in a new environment and learning a lot about myself and travelling the world.

"If I'm lucky, I've got 10 years left in this game and I want to make the most of it."

Although he has represented the Maori before - his only previous visit to Ireland was on their tour last November - he knew that an All Black call was unlikely, given the calibre of player he's competing against in the back-three.

He could follow in the foot-steps of fellow New Zealander Jared Payne and qualify for his adopted country in a 2020, but he's keeping his options open.

"I feel I've been playing probably at the best that I have been for a couple of years now, and there's a bit of a log-jam up top, and a great opportunity came up with a club that everyone speaks so highly of," he said last week.

"It's only three years… I'll be 27, 28, and then I'll reassess where I'm at - if I'm happy over there, if I'm not. If I feel I can still give more back in New Zealand then who knows, I could be back.

"It's a good chance to travel the world while I'm still young.

"It's an exciting prospect, it's something I don't really think about too much - you can't, as soon as your head's on that plane you're going to be on the back-burner."

Part of the reason there was some haste in making what will be a lucrative move north is Lowe's personal circumstances.

You wouldn't know it when he is breaking the line and off-loading freely, but he is playing with rheumatoid arthritis which affects his recovery and could one day bring his career to a premature end.

But he is a determined sort. When he was a teenager, the condition left him bed-ridden and writhing in agony but he has overcome it with a combination of his own mental strength and the marvels of medicine to forge ahead with his professional career.

"It's something I live with," he told stuff.co.nz last March.

Perform

"It takes me a wee bit longer to recover from such a physical sport, but I'm still able to perform, to train and get through absolutely everything.

"As long as my body holds up I'll keep playing rugby."

No player has made more clean breaks than Lowe's 33 this Super Rugby season, while his 11 tries are bettered only by two players.

The Lions will be watching him closely this morning as they look to get back to winning ways.

For Leinster fans, it's time to get excited about the flying Tasman native who will arrive in Ireland next autumn.

Irish Independent

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