PLAYING ON THE wing in Test rugby is an unforgiving place.
It used to be that outside centre was generally agreed on as the most difficult place to defend but there’s a strong argument to be made that the wing is even harder these days.
Many decisions are make-or-break, chances on the ball can be fleeting, every error is magnified and, oftentimes, the wings are left in lose-lose situations where they can take the heat for earlier errors further infield.
James Lowe has been very upfront about having to get to grips with the demands of Test rugby having made his Ireland debut last autumn.
Ireland boss Andy Farrell is a big fan of what the Leinster man can bring in attack and with his kicking game, meaning he was keen to get him into his starting XV as soon as Lowe qualified to play following three years of residency.
Lowe suffered a groin injury last November during the Autumn Nations Cup and didn’t play a single minute for his province between then and the start of this Six Nations, which is obviously far from ideal preparation for Test rugby.
But Farrell had Lowe straight back into his starting team for the opener against Wales and the 28-year-old has continued on the left wing since. There have been some strong contributions with his boot and ball in hand but there have been errors too.
A tough afternoon for Lowe in Murrayfield included a missed tackle on Huw Jones for the centre’s try during Scotland’s resurgence in Ireland’s 27-24 win.
“I thought we defended pretty well throughout the game apart from one or two slip-ups that gave them big access and I suppose that’s the international game,” said Farrell post-match. “You miss a tackle and you’re giving up seven points under the posts.”
Lowe competes for a high ball in Murrayfield. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO
Asked directly whether Lowe is struggling to step up at Test level, Farrell said Ireland need to keep working with the Leinster man and other players.
“We’ll sit down with James and some others as well to keep educating them regarding what international football is all about,” said Farrell.
“There are guys that are in there that are very young as far as their experience is concerned but to come up here and experience a win at Murrayfield is something they can be proud of when they’re looking back.
“As far as progressing James’s game, I suppose we’ll help him as we’ll help everyone else as well.”
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