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'I understood that was coming': James Lowe on copping trash talk from the All Blacks

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Former Chiefs winger and Maori All Black James Lowe faced off against the All Blacks four times in the span of nine months which was an experience he described as ‘weird’.


Having played with so many of the All Blacks growing up in New Zealand, whether it be school, provincial or Super Rugby, being on the opposite side was a unique experience for Lowe as a residency-qualified Irish player.

After debuting in 2020 against Wales in the emerald green, Lowe found himself a year later lining up to face the haka against his former countrymen and friends.

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On the latest Rugby Roots episode, he described what was like on the other side of the haka having performed many himself playing rugby in New Zealand.

“I guess traditionally you are just trying to look people in the eye,” Lowe explained to Jim Hamilton on Rugby Roots.

“It’s setting down a marker, it’s preparation for what’s to come. It was an amazing experience, I didn’t look at anyone specifically in the eye.

“It’s a weird thing because you are trying to catch people’s eyes but everyone is just looking straight ahead.


“The photos after were amazing, you see them in their formation and us standing there. Jack Conan had a big ole grin on his face before performing absolutely outstanding.

“I just stood there with a blank face expression and took it all in for what it was. I didn’t think I’d face it once and I’ve got it four times so far.”

A contingent of Lowe’s former Chiefs teammates were in the All Blacks touring squad, Damian McKenzie, Brodie Retallick, to captain Sam Cane, who he said cheekily sprayed his water bottle at him as he went past.

The Leinster wing told Hamilton that he was expecting a verbal backlash of some sorts on the field from the All Blacks and they didn’t disappoint.


“The whole week was a bit weird because I had so many friends in the opposition team who I knew I was about to try and kick the s*** out of,” he said.

“I knew there was going to be a bit of, not bitterness towards me, but there was going to be a little bit of chirping and things on their side.

“But that’s sport I understood that was coming. There was no malice in it, but it was good to get one up on them that’s for sure.”


Lowe said it was ‘the usual suspects’ who were out there giving lip, including his former teammate Retallick.

“There’s the usual suspects like Brodie Retallick, he is surprisingly [a big talker],” Lowe said.

“In fairness, I know him as Guzzler, he’s a friend of mine I knew it was coming but when he was starting to go at someone like Garry Ringrose, I was like “mate, Garry is one of the nicest guys, please try and pick on someone else”.

“Dane Coles obviously, annoying as s***. David Havili I went to school with, Ethan Blackadder I went to school with, Finlay Christie I played a lot of rugby with, it’s all those boys.

“It’s the digs on the ground you know you are going to get. I knew it was coming.”

Lowe had a dream start to his first clash against the All Blacks, scoring in the corner squeezing past the cover tackle of Jordie Barrett to give Ireland a 5-0 lead.

After copping criticism earlier in the year for his defence, Lowe came up with one of the plays of the game with a critical cover tackle on Rieko Ioane.

“It was like someone had written a script, for something like that to happen,” Lowe recalled of his tackle.

“It’s one of things that almost happened in slo-mo, I saw it happening before me.

“The break off the base, Peter O’Mahony missing a tackle, an offload, David Havili goes through the gap.

“I had to close down a fair amount of space, pretty quickly to try and get Rieko because he’s absolutely electric. I saw the pass come out of Davey’s hand and closed my eyes and hit him.

“Fortunately enough, Pete got over the ball and got the turnover. Joey kicked the three and that gave us a little bit of a cushion.

“It happens so fast but to me, that moment happened in slo-mo, I can still see it now.”


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