Written off over his size, Michael Lowry is an example for smaller players
Ulster star Michael Lowry represents a “real beacon” for smaller players and has been backed to shine on the international stage with Ireland.
The uncapped full-back has forced his way into Andy Farrell’s 37-man squad for the Guinness Six Nations following a series of electric performances for his province.
Fleet-footed Lowry, who stands at 5ft 7in, was written off by some people earlier in his career because of his height.
Yet Ulster’s head of operations Bryn Cunningham was “blown away” by the 23-year-old from the beginning, having first seen him perform for Royal Belfast Academical Institution in a schools’ cup game around six years ago.
“If you had a checklist of things you would want in an ideal professional rugby player, Mikey pretty much ticks every single box,” Cunningham told the PA news agency.
“What he has shown, which is a real beacon to smaller players, is that you can actually make it at this level if you have the skill level but also the commitment around how you organise yourself in defence and attack.
“His work-rate and his mindset around the physicality part of the game is just absolutely unbelievable. He hits harder than many guys twice his size.
“And then the big thing above all of that is his point of difference, which is his footwork and his acceleration, which is just exceptional and I think that’s what everybody has been so excited about.
“We’ve been very aware of that internally for some time but for that outside world to now start seeing that on a regular basis it’s brilliant for the game.
“I think the vast majority want to see excitement in rugby and, if Mikey’s on the pitch, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to get that.”
Ireland begin the Six Nations at home to defending champions Wales on Saturday.
Lowry may initially have to be patient in pursuit of a Test debut as Leinster’s Hugo Keenan has excelled in the Irish number 15 jersey.
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Asked if he expects the talented back to grace the international stage for many years to come, Cunningham replied: “He has the ability to.
“The way he’s progressed over the last couple of years and that X-factor that he has, it will be very, very hard to ignore if he continues to do that on such a regular basis.
“Where people a few years ago maybe had doubts whether he, because of his size, would have the ability to mix it at international level, we’ve now seen at the top level of Champions Cup against some of the very best players in Europe and around the world he’s been able to do that and more.
“So I certainly would have big faith that he would be able to reproduce that at the highest level.”
Cunningham, who played full-back for Ulster between 1997 and 2010, fondly recalls his initial impression of the player.
“I immediately was just blown away by him in so many facets of what he produced that day,” said the 43-year-old.
“You could just see something that was pretty special and it was interesting because even at that point there were a number of naysayers saying he was too small.
“But whenever you see something so special in a kid of that age, you just cannot ignore that.
“There’s so much to him from a personal point of view, he’s just a great individual. His family can be incredibly proud of what they’ve produced because he’s an absolute credit to them.
“Certainly in terms of genetically of what he has, he uses every single ounce of that to great effect and I would love to see him get an opportunity during the Six Nations at some point.”
Lowry lined up alongside Ireland and Ulster team-mate James Hume during his school days.
He specialised as a fly-half back then and has expressed a desire to return to that role as his career progresses.
On that subject, Cunningham said: “He’s playing so well at 15 at the moment that why would you move him?
“But I’ve no doubt that certainly over time he could end up with opportunities, certainly at provincial level, of playing some rugby at 10 as well.
“He has that string to his bow, on top of 15, which will be really beneficial for him for the future for many years to come.”
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