2020 Ireland vs Wales

James Lowe's Long Journey To International Rugby

James Lowe's Long Journey To International Rugby

Once an electrifying young talent in New Zealand, Kiwi James Lowe will finally make his debut on the international scene – but for Ireland.

Nov 11, 2020 by Alex Rees
James Lowe's Long Journey To International Rugby

Once an electrifying young talent in New Zealand, Kiwi James Lowe will finally make his debut on the international scene – but for Ireland. 

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Silky smooth skills, powerful running, and dancing feet saw Lowe light it up week in and week out for the Chiefs in Super Rugby from 2014-2017, where he formed a memorable back-three partnership with Damian McKenzie. 

In 53 games for the Chiefs, Lowe scored 25 tries and set up numerous others, earning him some well-deserved recognition from the All Blacks coaches. By 2015, he was well on their radar and looked poised to make his All Black debut and a possible late push for the World Cup at year’s end. However, an unfortunate injury and subsequent operation left him out of the side and he’d have to wait his turn. 

Leaving New Zealand

Securing a spot on the wing for the All Blacks is one of the most challenging jobs in the world. From Jonah Lomu to Jeff Wilson, to Bryan Williams, John Kirwan, Christian Cullen, Julian Savea, Joe Rokocoko, Doug Howlett, and dozens more, the wide man on New Zealand proves to be a spot held down by legends.

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In current times, that trend has continued. Guys like Rieko Ioane, George Bridge, Caleb Clarke, Sevu Reece, Will Jordan, and Jordie Barrett battle week after week for a place in the team. James Lowe knew this would be the case and decided to ask himself a very difficult question.

Will I ever reach 50 caps with the All Blacks?

“I always wanted to play international footy and I still think, if I was lucky enough, I would have played a handful of games for New Zealand. But that didn’t really sit strong enough for me to have me stay,” he told stuff.co.nz’s Phillip Rollo.

Given the crowded backfield in the All Blacks camp, Lowe determined he’d likely limited caps in his career and decided it was time to expand his horizons. Looking abroad, Lowe surveyed other options to play professional rugby.

Coming To Ireland

In 2017 European giant Leinster came calling, offering Lowe the chance to join the Irish province. At 25 years old, it was an easy decision for the star winger. 

“I closed that New Zealand door myself. I jumped before I was pushed, so to still be young enough that an Irish powerhouse wanted to potentially invest [in me], I was very lucky how it all panned out. To come over here and play decent footy, and then to be considered in the conversation [for Ireland] is bloody awesome.

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“If the opportunity does come up, like I’ve said a million times now, I’ll definitely take it with both hands and see how we go.”

To those who knew Lowe’s ability, it came as no surprise when he instantly started lighting it up for Leinster, helping them to a Heineken Cup and a Pro14 title in his debut campaign. He’s continued to be a mainstay for Leinster over the past three years, scoring 33 tries in 49 appearances for the team. 

Ready For International Footy

Now finishing up his three years of residency on the Emerald Isle, James Lowe is officially eligible to represent Ireland at the test level. At 28 years old, one of the world’s best wingers will finally get to play international rugby, and he hopes to continue doing so for years to come. 

But even if Lowe never pulls on a green jersey, his experience in Ireland has been so fulfilling he says he’d never think about heading back to New Zealand. 

“Dublin is an awesome city and the rugby over here, the facilities, the environment, the amount of people you have in the organization and outside of the organization who want to help on every single level, is extraordinary.

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“To spend our mid-to-late 20s in a city like Dublin, there’s so much going on here, yet we’re in such a little bubble that it’s not so overwhelming. Mate, it’s been bloody awesome. There was no real chance of me leaving. Life is very nice over here at the moment.”

When Lowe first suits up for Ireland in the Autumn Nations Cup this November, he’ll officially pledge his allegiance to the Irish Rugby Football Union. That means he could one day face his close pal and former teammate McKenzie, a prospect he relishes.

 “I wouldn’t mind smashing Damian a couple of times – although no one bloody can that’s the problem. It will be awesome and I’d definitely look forward to that.”

Something the rest of us are looking forward to is seeing the influence James Lowe will have on the Irish attack during the Autumn Nations Cup, from Nov. 13th–Dec. 6th,on FloRugby.