Wednesday 11 December 2019

Lowe bringing good vibes to Leinster and creating a headache for Cullen

James Lowe gets away from the tackle of Jarrad Butler with Johnny Sexton arriving in support. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
James Lowe gets away from the tackle of Jarrad Butler with Johnny Sexton arriving in support. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Having won over the crowd in an all-singing, all-dancing, 80-minute performance James Lowe's next mission is to convince Leo Cullen to alter his thinking for his European match-day 23.

An obscure Champions Cup law means the Leinster coach must choose two of his three Antipodean stars for the final two pool games against Glasgow Warriors and Montpellier and with Scott Fardy the first-choice lock and Jamison Gibson-Park comfortably the second-choice scrum-half, Lowe was left out of the two clashes with Exeter Chiefs before Christmas.

Based on his performances against Munster and Connacht, he would be a shoo-in for selection if Cullen had a free hand, but that is not the case.

His Kiwi razzle-dazzle is wowing fans and bewildering defences and his high-energy approach is winning his team-mates over.

Indeed, when Matt Healy scored the try to make yesterday's derby a one-score game it was Lowe who addressed the troops to keep the effort up.


"He really brings a good vibe and has really good energy on the pitch," second-row Ross Molony said.

"It's something we really drive off when we're under the pump.

"When they score a try, you're looking for people to step up and motivate the team and when you hear the newest guy in the squad come in and motivate people it's really positive. It really gets guys going.

"He's been brilliant, you could see it out there today that he really brings a southern-hemisphere style of play with the off-loading game, but he's also adapted into our system.

"As a winger he has those decisions to make, especially in defence, and you could see him putting in some really big hits, getting off the line and closing down their attack."

Offensively, Lowe was outstanding. Over the course of 80 minutes he made 110m from 13 carries, beating five defenders and making two clean breaks, while throwing six off-loads to boot.

The highlight reel was impressive, but the stand-out moment was the brilliantly-executed spin and off-load to Noel Reid that opened things up for Max Deegan's try.

He linked nicely with Johnny Sexton despite this being their first outing together and Cullen was happy with how he went.

"He is very, very good," the coach said.

"He is very strong in contact and lots of energy as well. He just has that little bit of an x-factor where he is able to keep that ball alive in contact very well.

"He creates opportunities off of the back of that. He is enjoying life in Dublin so far. It was his first outing in the RDS, so he's making good progress."

His form creates a conundrum for Europe.

"Definitely. It's just great to see him up and running now," Cullen said.

"He provides a really good energy around the place as well. We just need to always make sure, what we are playing against what works best for us on the day.


"We need to make some calls and look back through the game again.

"Realistically there will be a lot of changes again for our game against Ulster here.

"Another opportunity for guys, some guys did well today, some guys need work. We will reassess and have a good look through, see how guys are performing."

Having coached Lowe at the Chiefs last season, Connacht coach Kieran Keane isn't surprised to see him do well.

"He's a great fella, James, he'd be welcome down the road in the west but we can't afford him," the New Zealander said.

"I've known him since he was a nipper, he's an extremely likeable character and he'll do really well here."

With Cullen set to rotate again this week for the meeting with Ulster at the RDS on Saturday, the likes of Jordan Larmour, Rory O'Loughlin, Dave Kearney and Adam Byrne could have an opportunity to shine but it is looking increasingly difficult to leave Lowe out for the big games to come.

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