Mon 15 Mar 2021 | 12:01

Ireland's Kiwi wing once again in crosshairs of critics

Ireland's Kiwi wing once again in crosshairs of critics
Mon 15 Mar 2021 | 12:01
Ireland's Kiwi wing once again in crosshairs of critics
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REACTION: Despite Ireland’s confidence-boosting Six Nations win over Scotland at Murrayfield, wing James Lowe is once again in the crosshairs of critics.

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While the blockbusting strike runner made 62 metres with ball in hand, it was his endeavours on the other side of the ball that have raised the hackles of critics. The Leinsterman’s lethargy in defence and busted tackle attempts left plenty to be desired and have raised question marks about why his transition to Test rugby has, to date, been so fraught with difficulties.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell, not usually a man to single out a player, noted: “We’ll sit down with James. There’s obviously others we need to sit down, with him, and teach them what international football is all about.”

Last November former England wing Chris Ashton faced significant backlash after criticising Lowe when Ireland lost to England in the Nations Cup. “He is too big, too heavy, too slow,” said Ashton of Lowe when reviewing Jonny May’s 85-metre wonder try.

Three months on and Ashton’s harsh criticism seems remarkably prescient.

Former Ireland flyhalf Ronan O’Gara suggested that Lowe, who comes from a Super Rugby background, needs to understand that the central role of defence plays in northern hemisphere rugby.

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“Over here I think our understanding of the defence and how we set up to succeed defensively is 50/50. In Super Rugby it is 80/20. You spend 80 percent of your time on attack, it’s an entertainment business and it’s all about scoring tries,” said O’Gara who has coached at Crusaders. “I think he has to understand and appreciate that here it is 50/50. The most you can get out of ten if you’re not interested in defence is a five. This side we really appreciate guys who are good on both sides of the ball.

“You hear Stuart Lancaster [in Leinster] talk about him in detail about the work-ons he has, but unfortunately for Leinster he doesn’t really get tested so it’s hard. The difference between playing in the Pro14 and test level is just chalk and cheese.”

Former Scotland and Ulster head coach Matt Williams, speaking on Virgin Media in Ireland, described much of his performance as “not acceptable”.

“I hate to pick on James Lowe because he’s a lovely guy, but that’s just not acceptable at international rugby. He has been caught out. I feel for him because he has got a lot of quality with the ball in hand and his kicking. I’m not saying he written off or he’s not up to it, but I think he’s got a lot of learning to do with the intensity required in defence. He’s just making too many mistakes.”

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By Ian Cameron, @RugbyPass

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