Ireland head coach Andy Farrell says he is a big fan of Leinster’s James Lowe, the Kiwi winger who becomes eligible to play for Ireland later this year. Lowe, who signed for Leinster from the Chiefs in 2017, will be able to represent from November due to World Rugby’s residency rule.

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And Farrell, who took over from Joe Schmidt following last year’s Rugby World Cup, says Lowe will be in the mix for a quick call-up.

Ireland are due to resume their suspended Six Nations campaign with a home game against Italy on October 24, followed by a final day trip to play France on October 31.

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Farrell’s squad will then take part in the new eight-team tournament which will see the Six Nations teams joined by Fiji and Japan.

It could mean that by that end of 2020, Lowe will be an Ireland international, with Farrell clearly keen on the wing’s qualities.

Lowe has been a revelation since joining Leinster, winning two Guinness Pro14 titles and a European Champions Cup, scoring 28 tries in 43 appearances. He signed a new contract with the province in June.

“He’s been great,” Farrell told the Irish Independent.

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“He’s been a great tonic for Irish rugby really and he’s played some outstanding rugby over the years.

“Like everyone else, we’ll see how he comes back and how he performs in the early parts of the season and there are plenty of big games in which he can put up his hand. He is the same position as everyone else.

“He is available from the beginning of November and we need to make sure we get selection correct accordingly and he will be part of our plans in the same way as everyone else is.

“He’s a big guy, he’s strong, he loves getting on the ball as much as he can, he comes off his wing, he is hungry for the ball, he doesn’t like getting tackled that much, he has a great left boot and he is good in the air as well.

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“He’s a great all-round player. I’m sure he can see parts of his game where there is room for improvement as well. Hopefully we can see him in top form so he can push his claims for selection.”

Farrell also voiced his support for the new ‘Eight Nations’ tournament, details of the which are due to be announced later this month. Yesterday, Six Nations organisers yesterday confirmed they are in the process of finalising the schedule for a “unique eight-team competition, involving the Six Nations unions and two other international teams.”

The tournament will include the Six Nations teams plus Fiji and Japan, and will take the place of the existing Autumn Test schedule.

“Obviously, it hasn’t been announced officially but if it does get announced officially, I think it’s super-exciting,” Farrell said.

“A new competition, two new teams in the competition, a different format for everyone. It’s what everyone wants to see – a competition that’s going to be World Cup-like in a way.

“Along with the two games we’ve got left in the Six Nations, it could be that we’re together for eight or nine weeks, which is great for us moving forward.

“The calendar is obviously packed but it’s packed with quality games and that’s what we all want to be part of.”

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