Andy Farrell has spoken of his excitement about the impact that newly eligible James Lowe could make with Ireland. The 28-year-old New Zealander has this month qualified to represent his adopted country under the 36-month residency rule.
Lowe was part of the New Zealand Maori team that lost to the 2017 Lions in Rotorua but move to Leinster later that that year and has since gone on to score 33 tries in 49 matches, winning three PRO14 titles and a European Cup in the process.
Having recently trained with the Ireland squad in an unofficial capacity, Lowe was included in the 34-strong panel chosen by Farrell for the Autumn Nations Cup and the coach can’t wait to see whether the firepower winger can translate his provincial form to the international stage.
“I’m as keen as everyone to see how he goes at international level,” said Farrell. “It is a different level but we see the potential of what he shows in the PRO14 and how he fitted into life in Ireland in and around the PRO14 for Leinster.
“We will see whether that transfers or not into the international scene. I suppose if you were a betting man you’d be pretty excited about seeing him play and do well.”
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Lowe was one of three changes to the Ireland squad that Farrell announced on October 14 for the remaining two matches in the delayed Six Nations, the home win over Italy that was followed by last Saturday’s title-conceding defeat to France in Paris.
Billy Burns, another uncapped player, and the vastly experienced Keith Earls have been included at the expense of the broken-jawed Garry Ringrose, Jack Carty and Jack Conan for the series of Nations Cup games that begin on November 13 at home to Wales.
Ulster out-half Burns had originally been included in the squad last January when Farrell first started his tenure as Ireland coach and he now returns still seeking that debut cap. “Billy spent some time with us at the start of the Six Nations before we went into lockdown,” said Farrell.
“He never really got an opportunity but we were very impressed with what we saw of his skillset and his game understanding stuff in and around the team. He fitted in really well back then. At the start of us coming back after lockdown into the remaining games of the Six Nations he wasn’t fit.
“He had a calf problem and has been working away to get back fit. We watched his game the other night in Cardiff and we thought he deserved that opportunity to come back in and meet back up with the team.”
Farrell also had words of encouragement for Jacob Stockdale, Burns’ Ulster colleague, after his first-half error resulted in a try for France and the yellow carding of Caelan Doris. “Well, there is one thing for sure, I know what Jacob is and that’s a dangerous player.
“His form against Italy, everyone was raving about and there’s one or two things, he talked of the fundamentals of his game etc that he needed to pick up. But having said all that, the yardage that he picked up for us (carrying the ball) and the yardage that he picked up with his boot as well is something that we need to keep progressing with him.”
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