Tuesday 15 October 2019

'I hate that rule, it left a question mark over all three of us'

Players' Diary: James Lowe

Happy days: It will be good to be able to play alongside Jamison Gibson-Park (right) this season. Photo: Sportsfile
Happy days: It will be good to be able to play alongside Jamison Gibson-Park (right) this season. Photo: Sportsfile

Hello! Miss me? Another season is back and so am I, on these pages every few weeks giving my take on what is going on in Leinster HQ and beyond. It's good to be back.

Perfect end to last season, eh? That win in the rain in Glasgow was brilliant. It doesn't make up for what went before in Newcastle, but it just meant that we could all head off for our summer break on a high.

Happy days: It will be good to be able to play alongside Scott Fardy (left) this season. Photo: Sportsfile
Happy days: It will be good to be able to play alongside Scott Fardy (left) this season. Photo: Sportsfile

I know it's been said by plenty of other blokes but I have to say it too - the support over those two or three weeks was special.

That drive into Newcastle, the full RDS for the Munster game, the reaction to that win and to a few special moments on the Grandstand side of the pitch for myself.

And then Glasgow. That was supposed to be a home game for them? But look what you did to the place! It felt like home for us and at key moments we could sense that energy lifting us when we had to dig deep against a really good Warriors team.

I know Dave Rennie from the Chiefs and I know how he sets his teams up and they threw everything at us. But we found an answer. It was brilliant. Like the season before with Isa (Nacewa) leaving, it was nice to send those boys leaving the club off on a high and with a performance that showed them what they meant to us.

It was also great to see debutants Harry Byrne and Michael Milne go so well last weekend. Photo: Sportsfile
It was also great to see debutants Harry Byrne and Michael Milne go so well last weekend. Photo: Sportsfile

So 18 weeks ago I was in Glasgow for that final and then 17 weeks ago I had an operation on my shoulder. While everyone else was let off to kick off their boots on a sandy beach somewhere, someone had to mind the fort back at UCD, so myself and Scott Penny were left in charge of the keys as we had rehabilitation to contend with during our summer holidays.

Obviously Scotty (Fardy) was part of the squad last week against Benetton but I've had to be a little bit more patient for my first match day. It's here now and I can't wait.

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There has been a lot of talk this week about the storm coming our way and hopefully by the time we get to tonight in the RDS it will have all calmed down and everyone will have come through it safely. The rain certainly left its mark on training this week, with dry ball hard to come by. Winter in Ireland is definitely on its way!

It will be good to be back at the RDS. Nearly five months since we were there last just seems crazy. In that time they've had the Horse Show but it was looking brilliant last week and it's a credit to Gary and his team in the RDS that they turn that place around year in and year out with such precision.

I've had to be patient for my first game of the season, but even more patient for my first game with Fards and Jamo (Jamison Gibson-Park).

I don't think I have hidden my feelings on this stupid rule in the past that limits how many blokes from Australia and New Zealand you can have in your squad. I don't agree with it and I don't understand it, but what can you do? We had to just get on with it.

But it always left a question mark over the three of us and around selection. I missed out in Bilbao in 2018, as did Jamo in the Aviva a few weeks later. Tough calls and you can take them when they are around form and selection, but when you are robbed of a proper contest because of some rule, it's even tougher.

All you can do in such circumstances is get behind the team. I still say that one of my best days was Bilbao and seeing Isa lift that trophy in the air. If you can't be delighted for Isa and for him to finish the way he did with this team, you don't belong in this club.

But now that question mark is gone. It's not like Fards, Jamo and I are competing for the one position anyway, but it just makes it very simple for all of us in the squad again. 23 positions and a level playing field for us all.

So today I get to play with Fards and Jamo for the first time ever on a pitch and I can't wait. Of course, the reason for that is that Jamo is now qualified to play for Ireland.

In time that focus will shift onto me but it is quite a way away just yet and, as I have said before, if that phone call does come my way, I would give it my absolute all, 100pc.

But that will be then, this is now and taking on Ospreys. The boys did brilliantly last weekend to get us up and running as a club. Four tries from the two boys on the wings leaves pretty big shoes for Fergus (McFadden) and me to fill, but that is the challenge that has been set for us.

Harry Byrne and Mikey Milne made their debuts last weekend and I never got to hear their song after the game, but hopefully Rowan Osborne will get a chance to show the RDS crowd what he can do and maybe even show us in the sheds how good his lungs are.

Driven

It's great to see these boys doing so well and taking their chance. They know it's only early days in the season but they have been so driven and have been back in every day wanting to get better and wanting to improve, and that is all you can ask for. No resting on that debut. What's next? Ospreys. Go get them.

The last few weeks I've been busy getting the body right for this game but also busy supporting Rugby Players' Ireland and their Tackle Your Feelings (TYF) campaign. I suppose my road to this point hasn't always been straightforward and hopefully my story can show some young boy or girl out there what can be done and that there is a way through those low points.

Not just youngsters either, but everyone. Talk, reach out, don't fight alone. Be there for one another. I encourage everyone to give the TYF App a try, it's an awesome initiative!

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