Leo Cullen: ‘It’s good to see James playing with a smile on his face’

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James Lowe answered critics who questioned his qualities with stellar performances in an Ireland shirt during the Autumn Nations Series last month.

Lowe scored tries against Japan and New Zealand, the country of his birth, as he got himself an iron grip on Ireland’s number 11 shirt with all 240 minutes of the games under his belt.

The 29-year-old led the side in metres made throughout the November internationals, with 266 to his name from 37 carries – an average of seven metres per carry – as well as nine offloads, more than any other player (equalled only by Stuart Hogg).

What was most impressive across the three games, however, was the improvement of his defence.

Lowe made eight tackles in the Autumn Internationals and managed five defensive catches in his backfield role.

He had previously been criticised for his defending in his first year as an Irish international and had this to say after the win over New Zealand.

“You bollockses always talk about my [defence], and I got up and I worked Rieko (Ioane), and we got the turnover from it.

“I don’t care about that first try, I don’t care about anything. It was that moment, to do everything I’ve been doing in the last six or seven months in the 70 minutes, that’s what I’m happy about.”

Lowe returns to the starting lineup for his club, Leinster on Friday night after the successful international break.

He will wear number 11 for the province and share the backline with Ireland full-back Hugo Keenan once again as the team take on Connacht in the United Rugby Championship in their second interprovincial clash at the RDS Arena in as many weeks.

Leinster Head Coach Leo Cullen noted that he understands that the criticisms players have to deal with can be hard and that it’s good to see a “larger than life character” like James Lowe enjoying his rugby.

“I don’t know what else was going on inside his mind at that exact moment (the interview) – I’m not so sure,” Cullen said. “But yeah, look, what players have to deal with, criticism and rejection and all the rest, it can be hard, you know, they wanna go out and prove a point…

“…the big thing is [that] it’s good to see James playing with a smile on his face so hopefully he can deliver something for us [Friday] night.”

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