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James Lowe ready for ‘rumble’ in the Thomond jungle

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James Lowe: ‘We understand the task at hand and what’s going to be needed for the full 80 minutes.’ Photo: Sportsfile

James Lowe: ‘We understand the task at hand and what’s going to be needed for the full 80 minutes.’ Photo: Sportsfile

James Lowe: ‘We understand the task at hand and what’s going to be needed for the full 80 minutes.’ Photo: Sportsfile

The glint is rarely out of James Lowe’s eye, but as he considers a return to a close-to-full Thomond Park, an additional gleam is evident.

There’s something about Munster for the Ireland winger who was sent off in Limerick in 2018 but has enjoyed some good days there too.

It’s nearly been a year since these two met and even longer since there was a crowd to cheer them on.

It might not be packed to the rafters, but you can be sure there’ll be a vociferous support behind the home side and Lowe is relishing a return to the arena.

“I’m not there to throw digs at anyone but jeepers, you either walk towards it or you stand back and watch it unfold in front of you,” he said of the derby atmosphere. 

“Look, we’re all professional athletes at the end of the day.

“You want to be part of the biggest days and under the brightest lights, and if you’re not here to do that, I don’t know why you’re here.

“You’re not going to win anything if you don’t like that.

“We’re ready to rumble. We understand the task at hand and what’s going to be needed for the full 80 minutes and hopefully we can produce a performance and get a result.”

Lowe saw red for tackling Andrew Conway in the air during a particularly tempestuous chapter in these two’s relationship.

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That fixture saw Johnny Sexton hunt Joey Carbery around the place, Fineen Wycherley hurl the Ireland out-half to the ground and Tadhg Furlong and Cian Healy saw yellow as Munster ran out 26-17 winners.

“Getting red-carded and booed off, that was amazing,” Lowe smiled when asked for his favourite memory of Limerick. 

“No, that was Dan Leavy catching a cross-field kick on St Stephen’s Day 2017. Yeah, that was my favourite moment.”

The biggest lessons come from that defeat and the way Leinster lost their heads.

“It was madness, wasn’t it?” Lowe said. “We don’t want that to happen again, that’s for sure. I guess part of how teams try and play, part of it is trying get under our skin, force us into mistakes we wouldn’t normally make, try and rile us up.

“People put that in the blueprint of trying to beat Leinster so if we can keep calm and you know try and not fight back, I’m not saying they’re going to go out and try to do it, but a lot of teams do you know.

“If we can stick to our system, stick to our game-plan, hopefully we won’t see any cards on the weekend.

“What we took away from that game is we’re always trying to find the perfect balance between aggression and making sure you’re sticking to the plan.

“And obviously there was my red card, I think Tadhg got done for a yellow, we got into almost a fist fight with a team that’s big and they want to take you into a scrap.

“We needed to make sure that we could stay as cool, calm and collected going into the rest of the season after that. We were frustrated with ourselves more than anything, but I guess after that game we knew what we had to do and not get dragged down into that fist fight.

“We’re playing our rugby on our terms, and so is every other team. It’s very easy to say, but we knew that we got it wrong that day and we’re going to get it wrong again every day, because there’s a target on our back, but that’s part of professional rugby.”

After a post-Six Nations break that saw him get married to his partner Arnica Palmer in Las Vegas, Lowe is back on the Leinster wing for tonight’s game and gunning for the challenge.

Both sides welcome internationals back, but Sexton sits out the trip as Ross Byrne starts at out-half.

Munster have Joey Carbery and Conor Murray back at half-back, while Damian de Allende and Chris Farrell are in midfield and Matt Gallagher is joined by Calvin Nash and Shane Daly in the back-three.

Up front, Dave Kilcoyne and Tadhg Beirne are injured so Jeremy Loughman starts at loosehead along with Niall Scannell and Stephen Archer, while Leinster-bound lock Jason Jenkins partners Fineen Wycherley and Peter O’Mahony joins Chris Cloete and Gavin Coombes in the back-row.  

They’re up against the Ireland back-row of Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan, while Devin Toner partners Jack Dunne in the second-row and Ed Byrne, James Tracy and Michael Ala’alatoa line up in the front-row.

Behind the scrum, Luke McGrath partners Byrne, while Robbie Henshaw joins Garry Ringrose in midfield and Hugo Keenan and Jimmy O’Brien team up with Lowe in the back three.

On the bench, Leinster have gone for a 6/2 split of forwards and backs and it’s there they might have the edge.

Verdict: Leinster

MUNSTER – M Gallagher; C Nash, C Farrell, D de Allende, S Daly; J Carbery, C Murray; J Loughman, N Scannell, S Archer; J Jenkins, F Wycherley; P O’Mahony (capt), C Cloete, G Coombes. Reps: D Barron, J Wycherley, J Ryan, T Ahern, A Kendellen, C Casey, B Healy, K Earls.

LEINSTER H Keenan; J O’Brien, G Ringrose (capt), R Henshaw, J Lowe; R Byrne, J Gibson-Park; E Byrne, J Tracy, M Ala’alatoa; D Toner, J Dunne; C Doris, J van der Flier, J Conan. Reps: D Sheehan, C Healy, T Furlong, R Molony, J Murphy, L McGrath, C Frawley, M Deegan.

REF – C Ridley (England).

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