Exile Dow feeling right at home as he aims for Six Nations glory
As a schoolboy in south London, Lorcan Dow always kept a close eye on Ireland's progress.
Born to an Irish mother, Dow spent six years living in Dublin, which is where his love of rugby began.
Having been picked up through the exile system, Dow represented Ireland at U-18 and club level before winning a place in the Ulster academy.
Now in his second year with Ulster, the powerful No 8 has impressed with Queen's University, who are chasing promotion to Division 1B of the Ulster Bank AIL.
His club ambitions will be parked for now as he prepares for Ireland's opening U-20s Six Nations game in Italy on Friday.
"My mum is from Derry. She's very proud. She's always off telling everyone she works about what I'm doing," says Dow.
"My first club was here. I started with Wanderers when I was four years of age.
"I have a lot of Irish family and they come to all of my games. It's a strong Irish connection.
"There were times when you try and make decisions about your future but I've always followed the Irish rugby team and always been a massive fan. The likes of Paul O'Connell and Brian O'Driscoll are my big heroes, and Jamie Heaslip as well.
"It's always been an ambition of mine to play for Ireland and when I got the opportunity to do that through the exiles system, it was one I was always going to take," Dow admits.
A psychology student at Queen's University, Dow has learned to stand on his own two feet in his new life in Belfast.
A strong, ball carrying presence, Dow prides himself on bringing a "leadership role" to every team he represents.
It perhaps came as no surprise when Colin McEntee opted to name him captain for Ireland U-19s game against France last April. That remains the highlight of his fledgling career but he has bigger ambitions.
"I like to think that with the kind of game I play, I bring a leadership sort of role anyway," he says.
"It was a huge moment for me to captain Ireland last year and to get the win was great. Hopefully we can emulate that this year.
"I'd be kidding if I said we didn't want to win the Six Nations now. We want to go out there and put in our best performance.
"We'll be realistic about our chances but I'd say we have a good shot. We have a good chance against any side on our day.
"I've played against Italy a few times and they always bring a lot of physicality and flair. We'll be on our guard to try and take that scalp early on."