Subscriber OnlyRugby World Cup

James Lowe on the Rugby World Cup: ‘You can’t bloody get away from the Irish!’

Ireland winger says presence of family is making the tournament even more enjoyable despite testing on-field conditions

Rarely, if ever, and certainly not in this World Cup, will an Irish side be able to indulge itself as it did in the burning heat of the Stade de Bordeaux last Saturday.

At times it was akin to a training match, and to that extent the interlinking between forwards and backs demonstrated what their high-tempo sessions behind closed doors are actually like.

“That’s what we train,” said James Lowe after the 82-8 win over Romania. “We train under pressure and you want to test yourself in the harshest environment. We did it against Romania and next we’ve got to do it against Tonga and the week after we’ve got to do it against South Africa.

“It’s probably a good build-in to the big Test match being South Africa in our pool, and then a week off and then Scotland, so hopefully we can keep building and just get better and better.”


Dominating possession even more than usual against the Romanians, Ireland made 279 passes and 27 offloads. While theirs is an ambitious brand of rugby, it gives this Irish team a chance of breaking new ground and achieving something special, and they are also being true to themselves.

It’s also a way of playing that makes full use of Lowe’s roving role and his X-factor. But as he points out, it’s not wild and loose.

“I think teams are being rewarded for being ambitious but we’re not doing anything too crazy, do you think? It’s everything we train, it’s not off the cuff or [like] we don’t know what we’re doing. Everyone has got a role to play, it’s 15 all-in and it doesn’t matter what number you’ve got on the back of your shirt, you’ve got to perform and you’ve got to have the skill set.

“You’re seeing props with hands like loose forwards used to have, and the same with our locks. Some of our locks can play as loose forwards. It’s just the evolution of the game and we’re not the only team that has an athletic forward pack. There’s a fair few others out there.”

Ireland gradually began to embrace the counter-attack more, but Lowe reckons they could have been quicker to do so.

“We gave them a serious amount of respect, that they deserved. They’ve come to the World Cup, we played a lot of territory in the first-half and there was space in the backfield but really we should have played a bit more eyes-up rugby and really attacked them.

“I think we’ll look back on that and there were probably some opportunities when we could have countered a lot better, but the second-half was pretty good.”

Lowe had plenty of involvements, with 16 carries for 168 metres, and he actually had the most kicks out of hand, with eight, but no tries among the dozen scored.

“Yeah, it was bloody annoying because the boys inside me kept scoring, but sure that’s what happens. We managed to rack up a fair few tries and we know come the end of this round-robin that could prove [important].”

Lowe drew the short straw in being stationed on the left wing under the full glare of the afternoon sun before the shade gradually enveloped the pitch. He had never experienced playing in heat like that.

“No, definitely not. Not ever. I played in Suva before but that was different, that was muggy and very, very slippery. Actually, I feel like we handled the conditions quite well. I mean if you saw the New Zealand-France game it was very, very slippy. When it gets any sort of dew from the boys’ jerseys, you actually drop passes and it’s literally because the ball is so slippery.

“But a couple of dry towels whenever you can and a little bit of sticky spray goes a long way.”

Lowe has been delighted to have his father Geoff in Ireland for the past fortnight, and now in France for a two-month trip, along with Lowe’s wife Arnica and their first child, four-month-old Nico.

“He’s been an awesome grandad for the last couple of weeks while I’ve been away so my wife is very, very happy with him.

“They’re over as well. He struggles a little bit in the heat. It’s just such a contrast with Ireland and then you come over here and it’s 35 degrees. Yeah, he’s over for a little more than two months. So it’s a bit of craic for him.”

One of 10 Irish players to make their World Cup debuts last Saturday, Lowe has been struck by how this competition differs from anything else, with an estimated 25-30,000 Irish fans in the Stade de Bordeaux, most of whom applauded the players in a lap of appreciation.

“Yeah, it’s been intense, man, it’s the World Cup. The travelling support has been incredible. You can’t bloody get away from the Irish, everywhere you go. Half the time I’m sitting in my hotel because I’m too scared to go outside,” he said, good-naturedly.

“It’s a blessing and a curse. We absolutely love the travelling support. When we did a loop at the end there it was absolutely phenomenal. The amount of green that stood there and waited for us and cheered as we walked around was absolutely phenomenal.

“It’s a World Cup, we’re only a couple of hours offshore, and it’s absolutely fantastic to see so many travelling.”

As for The Cranberries’ song Zombie – a Munster anthem of late – being adopted by the Ireland crowd, the Leinster winger laughed when admitting to mixed feelings.

“Ehm, aww,” he said, thinking of the right words. “It’s a love-hate. The boys down the road play it a lot, eh? No, it is a love-hate but, sure look, when they’re singing it for us it sounds good.”