"That is a huge weapon" - James Lowe primed for Twickenham redemption
"I know it’s my role to get back there and stop it."
It is a little over 16 months ago since James Lowe endured a sobering Test experience at Twickenham, only to have former England winger Chris Ashton rinse him on the BBC.
Lowe had gone into his second Test cap, after to England, after scoring a try in an excellent debut outing against Wales. The Leinster winger was carrying a knock in both games, though, and it was brutally exposed against the English.
Lowe was caught out badly when Ireland lost possession from their own lineout throw and Jonny May blitzed up-field to score. The Ireland winger would have been expected to race back but replays did not look great as he arrived back to his try-line far too late to even play a role in the May score.
The 29-year-old since found redemption with strong performances in the November 2021 internationals, including a try-saving and try-scoring one against New Zealand. He missed the opening rounds of this year's Six Nations, but returned on Sunday to score twice against Italy and set up Jamison Gibson-Park for another.
On the latest House of Rugby URC [LISTEN from 6:40 below], Leinster and Ireland outhalf Ross Byrne explained why he believes James Lowe is being primed for a left wing start against England.
When James Lowe his owned his England performance
After that 18-7 loss to England, in November 2020, Chris Ashton pondered, on the BBC's Rugby Union Weekly, if Lowe was 'too big, too heavy, too slow' for Test rugby.
Speaking to House of Rugby, a month after those comments, Lowe did hold his hands up for his part in the Jonny May try, whilst admonishing Ashton [a current player] for his sweeping statement. Lowe commented:
"I will stand up and say that Jonny May try, I didn’t think he was going to score that, and I know it’s my role to get back there and stop it. I fully understand that.
"But as someone who’s still a player, or he’s still playing professional rugby, who would probably have more of a player’s perspective on things… could probably have understood or worded it in a different way."
2020/21 saw Lowe have injury and fitness issues, but he had a good pre-season, last summer, and has scored seven tries in 11 games for Leinster and Ireland, thus far this season.
Ross Byrne on James Lowe threat to England
Lowe looked nailed-on to start on the left wing in the Six Nations only for injury to rule him out of the Wales and France games. Mack Hansen looked immediately at home in the No.11 jersey, but Ireland head coach Andy Farrell shifted him to the right wing to get Lowe back on the left wing. The decision was rewarded with his assured performance against Italy.
During the latest, House of Rugby episode, Ross Byrne stated that Lowe most likely started against Italy as Farrell has him in mind to start at Twickenham on March 12.
"The biggest thing for Lowey playing is probably his left foot. You even saw with how Ireland played against Italy and how many times they used him on the exit, which is very important - especially in those tight games.
"Against England - and I reckon he will play - I think that left foot is a huge weapon, to try and exit out of your half. That is so important in those games that are really tight."
Farrell will now have to make a three-into-two decision for his starting wingers, with Lowe, Hansen and Andrew Conway all in contention. Although he has shown he is capable of selection surprises, we feel Lowe and Conway will get the nod for Twickenham.
Greg O'Shea asked how others in the Ireland squad may feel about Lowe coming in after two rounds of the championship and 'leapfrogging everyone else'.
"I don't know," Byrne remarked, "maybe as the lads that are in camp!"
WATCH HOUSE OF RUGBY HERE