After James Lowe confirmed that he has agreed to a new three-year deal with Leinster, INM rugby correspondent Rúaidhrí O'Connor joined Off the Ball to discuss what it means for the future.
“It’s not really a surprise, he’s been absolute quality since he’s got here,” O’Connor said. “Whatever structure November takes, Andy Farrell will have a new weapon in his armory in the form of James Lowe,” he continued.
“Lowe looks like he has everything that Ireland needs. They have been losing collisions at a fairly alarming rate in their biggest games and Lowe will add something in that area,” O’Connor said.
Lowe will be in an interesting battle with Jacob Stockdale, Andrew Conway and Keith Earls for a starting jersey on the wing.
“At the moment Conway and Lowe are probably the two players in form. Stockdale has had a rough 18 months but is probably the quality operator among them and Earls is probably in the autumn of his career,” O’Connor said.
“Lowe is good in every department and it’s hard to argue against him but I’m sure the three others will have something to say about it before they hand the jersey over.”
Whenever Lowe does play for Ireland it is sure to reignite the debate about eligibility rules and project players. He will be eligible to represent Ireland in November through World Rugby's three-year residency rule, which has since been extended to five years but that rule change came into play after Lowe's arrival in Ireland.
“I don’t like the rule but I’d never criticise the individual for taking that opportunity,” O’Connor said. “If you're going to criticise, it should be the IRFU and their opportunistic exploitation of a law that I think is deeply flawed,” he added.
“James Lowe has been an excellent contributor for Leinster over the time that he has been there and he’ll be an excellent contributor for Ireland,” O’Connor concluded.
Leinster announced last week that 28 players were to receive a new senior contract but as always they did not disclose the finer details of the deal.
Among that number were stalwarts Rob Kearney and Fergus McFadden. But it looks like they are only short term deals and their time in blue will come to an end in either September or October depending on how Leinster fare in Europe.
“They will bow out after pretty glorious Leinster and Ireland careers”, O’Connor said. Fergus McFadden is expected to retire but Kearney may play elsewhere.
“It just remains to be seen if Kearney decides he wants to go and pursue something in France, Japan, the USA or wherever rugby could take him. I’m sure he has no shortage of options,” O’Connor said.