Thursday 24 October 2019

'Rens' knows my game and I will have a huge target on my head

James Lowe

'I've lost every single major title . . . but I've never had the chance a week later to play again'

- Scott Fardy

Famous words from our bald Australian but it couldn't be any more true. It was the perfect tonic getting ready for a sold-out RDS after the defeat in Newcastle.

We literally started the season in July and to come up short at the last hurdle… I dunno. It's hard to find the words really. It's only sport and there are plenty of other things that bring perspective to all of this, but it hurts a lot.

It still hurts now thinking back to it and I think it will for a while. But at least we had the chance to get out there a week later and play. And no better game to focus the minds than Munster.

The atmosphere was brilliant once again. I am learning very quickly that a packed RDS is a special place and it was truly special. Plenty of blue - and red - and both sets of supporters getting into the game.

And getting into me! But that is what is so unique about this rivalry or maybe it's a rugby thing. Supporters by and large add so much to the occasions. They get behind their own team but they never miss a trick should the opportunity arise.

I've spoken in my diary before that I seem to bring out the best in crowds and at the RDS this past weekend some cheeky fella in red in the 75th minute shouted, 'Where were you last week, Lowe?'

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Fortunately, from years of being slagged by supporters I always have my wits about me…sometimes you just block it all out but then sometimes…

'And where are you next week?' I shouted back.

There was plenty of laughter and I managed a smile myself and hopefully that supporter did too. All good fun and great that we can all get out there and enjoy the game regardless of the jersey on your back.

In many ways I should thank that supporter. Let's just say that's the only smile I've managed while thinking back to that game in Newcastle.

Speaking of jerseys on your back, it was my absolute honour to be presented with my official Clondalkin RFC jersey after the Munster game. Classy touch from the guys there. A bit of a tight fit maybe but delighted to finally pull it on! Check out their Twitter if you haven't seen it already!

So to this weekend.

I have a weird admiration for Glasgow and that's not just because I know they play brilliant footy. I was also coached and nurtured by their current head coach Dave Rennie.

A man originally from the Cook Islands, he grew up in Wellington, New Zealand, playing semi-professionally for Wellington before becoming a coach. He has that typical coach aura about him. It always seems like he is carefully selecting words that come out of his mouth, making sure that whoever he is talking to understands fully how he wants things to play out.

He is very family-orientated in how he runs a team, making sure he knows the player inside out - family, study, limitations, everything - before then instilling his knowledge in them. But not before he knows you inside and out.

I was fortunate enough to be coached by Rens for four years, leaving my home town to join forces with him at the Chiefs. He loves running rugby. There is never a position on the field where you cannot score from.

Every ball is an opportunity to score and I like to think this approach has followed me to Leinster!

The other thing that separates his teams is their physicality. Brutality is a word Rens uses to describe what it takes to dominate the collision.

Glasgow have definitely adopted these two things, pushing the boundaries around the ruck and a willingness to keep the ball alive are two stand-outs of their game.

Expect an absolute belter come tomorrow at Celtic Park.

I really think you have the two best teams in the Guinness PRO14 in the final and both teams like to play ball so for the supporters I think it could be a special day.

Walking out to the pitch in Celtic Park there is a sign you walk under which says 'welcome to Paradise' but I can tell you for sure, paradise will not be expecting this!

But at least I know what to expect from Rens and from teams coached by him. There is the other side too though and the unfortunate thing about being trained by Rens is that he knows me inside and out!

He knows what I'm capable of, but he also knows where I'm weak, what I dislike, my worst tendencies.

Now don't get me wrong I'm not going to be changing anything about my own game this week, all I will be focusing on is making sure I'm mentally engaged for 80 minutes.

And that is the part of the game that sometimes doesn't get the attention it deserves.

The top two inches, the mental side of the game.

As a winger too you might only get one ball every 20 minutes or so but how do you stay razor-sharp in your focus so that you are just as efficient with one ball as you would be as an out-half that gets plenty of touches and feels his way into a game pretty quickly.

Slack So that is the tough part especially against a team with a coach that knows where I like to slack.

I feel I am going to have a huge target on my head this time, but not a target where people try and physically bully me, a target of trying to catch me out, put me off my own game and get my mind wandering.

So that's my personal challenge this week.

As a collective, though, we are going to Glasgow on a mission and we don't need to use the pain of two weekends ago to fuel us.

From the boys who are lucky enough to wear the jersey, to the ones who aren't.

To the loyal travelling fans and the ones who couldn't make it. There is plenty in that alone to fuel us. We couldn't be more ready.

Welcome to Paradise. . .

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