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James Lowe: ‘We know it’s a different French beast, the France that we know is going to turn up’


James Lowe scores against Wales

James Lowe scores against Wales

James Lowe scores against Wales

James Lowe laughs and laps up the irony.

A question on his intercept try is intercepted; by, of all things, a prop.

“He hasn’t stopped talking about it!” guffaws Dave Kilcoyne.

“I’ve been showing everyone the video!” flashes the white-teethed Lowe.

His sparkling effort last Saturday announced his return from the brief wilderness in blistering style.

And for him it confirmed a greater maturity in his play, too.

“It was pretty satisfying, I guess, because a couple of years ago I wouldn’t have done that, I would have done something pretty stupid.

“I would have tried to whack someone or shot in. I was kind of in the right place at the right time and that’s all she wrote.”

But there’s more. Always more with the genial Kiwi-born entertainer.

“Yeah, I had to catch a bit of sunshine,” he smiles when asked about his sojourn back at home.

“You can’t get rid of me unfortunately, I’m like a bad smell. I’m back, not going anywhere and I’m ready to rumble.

“I’d told Faz (Andy Farrell, head coach) that I had to pop home for a couple of weeks. I had got in touch with Jayo (Jason Cowman, head of S & C) and all the medicals and everything, we got across everything I needed to do to make sure when I did come back I hit the ground running.

“I came back, straight into Portugal and it was the first time I’d trained with a team for three and half weeks and I felt like I was in great shape. Like I said, I didn’t skip a beat. I made sure I got across everything.

“It was nice to be given the opportunity and that trust was there. Faz gave me the opportunity after some good training and to be able to put in a performance that the team was happy with, that’s all that really matters.”

A reminder, perhaps, that the strength of this unit derives from how each person is treated as an individual character.

“He encourages you to be yourself and not take away from the skills and the point of difference that you have that got you into this position and then it's finding a way around a structure that Andy puts in front of us to make sure that we can express ourselves.

“We've got some freakish athletes as well. If you look at our back-rowers, pretty dynamic, six, seven and eight, even our locks, Tadhg (Beirne) moving into a lock who was predominantly a six a couple of years ago.

“It's very athletic and dynamic and just giving those boys the opportunity to play at the line, play little tips inside, balls out the back, Sexto turning corners, having forwards there, it's all part of our whole system. The quicker we can get off the ground and into shape, I think we can cause some problems.”

Lowe is some character, it is true; but a finer rugby player. The laughs are cheap but the serious stuff on the weekend is where he earns the big bucks.

Three years ago, he was hardly pinpointed as an international player of substance, beyond the obvious style; but his persistence has paid off.

He assesses Mack Hansen’s latest hairstyle before the weekend hovers into view.

“Mate, he’s got a horrible haircut at the moment. My wife said he looks like a bit of a Karen at the moment, like he’s going to ask for the manager. Sure look, Mack is Mack.”

And so to the French.

“I know they would be disappointed with their performance against Italy away, and credit to Italy, they fronted up physically. That first half was very messy, I think both sides would say that, and then the second half was a proper Test match.

“It came down to a few moments that France ended up winning, it was a kick battle, Italy giving away a penalty, went to a maul, got around a corner and Jalibert scored. That there was a telling sign.

“But we know it’s a different French beast (this week), the France that we know is going to turn up and we’re prepping for that and can’t wait for the opportunity to test ourselves against the team that won the Grand Slam last year.”

He has some road to go yet but the kid can write a mean match report too. How about a preview?

“It's imposing a game that we know we can play. It's tight shapes, it's at the line, it's being combative and physical.

“It's very, very easy to say and then you get walloped in the first few contacts and you start second guessing yourself. But that's going to happen.

“It happens in a game where you're going to lose a few battles and have to play a bit smarter. But at the end of the day we know we've got a shape that can break down most teams if we get our own stuff right.

“Last year away from home, we probably gave them a few too many easy points in the first half, fought back in the second but we weren't quite there.

“I think we're a different team now compared to where we were 12 months ago and we're going to go out there and give it a good crack.

“If they beat us and the better team wins, that's what happens, it's rugby, it's sport. We're going to leave no stone unturned to make sure we turn up in good shape at the weekend.

“The French are physical, I think it would be silly to say they're not bigger than us. We think we're fitter. If we can get around them, work around into holes and hopefully get a couple of weak shoulders and stay on top of them, it sounds very easy to do but obviously teams struggle to do it. We're just going to go out and play our rugby and see how we go.”

A sensible plan from a sensible man. Some of the time, at least.

As for Grand Slam or World Cup implications, perhaps this is the only time you shall see James Lowe put on the breaks.

“It’s only the second game of the Six Nations so neither of us are getting ahead of ourselves.

“There's still a long time but obviously you want to keep building and hold on to momentum for as long as you can because I think we're in a good place.

“I didn't know that Andy hadn't beaten France. I haven't beaten France yet so I wouldn't mind having a go at them as well!”

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