Monday 27 January 2020

Lowe: We haven't fired a bullet yet, when we do it'll be special

Leinster 50 Northampton 21

James Lowe fends off the tackle of Northampton’s Dan Biggar to get over for Leinster’s fifth try during Saturday’s Champions Cup clash at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
James Lowe fends off the tackle of Northampton’s Dan Biggar to get over for Leinster’s fifth try during Saturday’s Champions Cup clash at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Even after watching his side put 93 points and 14 tries on the Premiership leaders over the last two weeks, Leo Cullen seemed unmoved by the whole thing.

As steady hands go, the Leinster head coach is right up there. And that it takes a lot to get him going is reflected in the ruthless nature in how his players are currently going about their business.

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Eleven wins from 11 this season so far, and 19 from a possible 20 points in Europe has seen Leinster book their place in the Champions Cup quarter-finals with two games to spare.

It's not just that Leinster are sweeping all before them, but it is the manner in which they are carving teams open for fun.

The biggest threat to their 'drive for five' is that they will sail through the pool stages without being properly tested before they arrive at the business end of the season.

Northampton may be flying high in England, but the last two weeks highlighted the sheer gulf in class between the two teams.

Lyon may be leading the Top 14, yet they will not pose Leinster any problems at the RDS next month, while a trip to Treviso isn't exactly daunting.

It all bodes well for their quest to finish as top seeds, which will have major ramifications in terms of a home draw in the knockout stages.

Just as they were at Franklin's Gardens, Leinster were irresistible at times at the Aviva, and with Jordan Larmour and James Lowe running riot it was a joy to watch.

For Cullen, it was a case of business as usual, and if he is on one end of the excitement scale, then Lowe is on the other.

Shortly after Cullen had done his best to temper expectations having watched his team destroy Saints 50-21, Lowe took centre stage. Just as he is on the pitch, the Kiwi winger is box office off it.

He is getting used to playing at the Aviva Stadium too, which is handy given that he qualifies for Ireland in November.

That is for another day, however, because right now Lowe is relishing the chance to perform in a team that plays to his strengths. And ominously for the rest of Europe, he believes Leinster are only warming up.

"We talk about it every week that we're pissed off because we haven't put in a complete performance yet and in a way it's kinda scary," Lowe said.

"We genuinely go in at half-time sometimes and we think, 'We haven't even fired a bullet yet', like, and the times that we do get it right, it's going to be awesome.

"People come to watch us and they're stoked at the moment but you wait, when we get it right it's going to be something special."

Some of Leinster's play on Saturday was very special, particularly Garry Ringrose's second of three tries, in which a set-piece move involving Lowe worked to absolute perfection.

There were clever lines of running all over the pitch, while the pack bullied an understrength Northampton side into submission.

Larmour backed up his impressive display last weekend with another dazzling show of electric footwork as he furthered his case to be Ireland's starting full-back against Scotland on February 1.

The 22-year-old has an excellent, intuitive understanding with Lowe and the prospect of the pair linking up in a green jersey as well as blue is tantalising.

"It was about time he passed - very, very nice of him," Lowe joked.

"He got himself into good positions and was able to put me down the sideline a couple of times and he went on a rampage or two as well, so we're very happy with our performance.

"He's very, very young as well, I forget that. More time in the saddle has been awesome for him and that 15 spot, he has almost locked it up so far so here's hoping he stays injury free and kicks on to next year.

"He likes to run and I like to run, like attracts like there. He doesn't know what I'm going to do and I don't know what he's going to do, so maybe when we figure out what we are going to do, it will come off.

"He's an awesome player with a huge future. Probably if he grew a couple of inches it would be really good for his game, but I don't know if we can quite sort that out!"

The calls for Caelan Doris to be included in Ireland's Six Nations squad will grow louder after another outstanding performance.

The 21-year old showcased his ability from the base of the scrum and 82 metres off 18 carries was a fine return for the hugely-talented prospect.

"There are a lot of nuts and bolt in forward play (to be critiqued) - little bits, but he's still bloody young," Cullen said, trying to dampen the hype.

"He brings a good physical edge, there is lots of bits he can develop. Physically he is still trying to get to a level. But yeah, it has been a good few weeks for Caelan. I thought he was very good at Glasgow away, so it has been a positive few weeks for him."

It has been a good few weeks for Leinster in general and with a promise of much more to come, they will take some stopping.

Leinster - J Larmour; D Kearney, G Ringrose, R Henshaw (R Kearney 61), J Lowe; R Byrne (C Frawley 47), L McGrath (J Gibson-Park 61); C Healy (E Byrne 14-20, 53), J Tracy (B Byrne 53), T Furlong (A Porter 50); S Fardy (capt) (D Toner 69), J Ryan; R Ruddock, J van der Flier (M Deegan 61), C Doris.

Northampton Saints - A Tuala; O Sleightholme, M Proctor, A Symons (F Dingwall 50), T Naiyaravoro, D Biggar (J Grayson 62), C Tupai (J Mitchell 61); F van Wyk (A Waller 58), M van Vuuren (S Matavesi 50), P Hill (E Painter 66); A Ratuniyarawa, A Coles (L Bean 4) (JJ Tonks 72); T Wood (c), J Gibson, L Ludlam.

Ref - D Jones (Wales).

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