Lowe: Sexton’s the dictator, Carbery more free-flowing

James Lowe blows out his cheeks, squeezes his hands into fists and takes a long, smiling pause.

Lowe: Sexton’s the dictator, Carbery more free-flowing

James Lowe blows out his cheeks, squeezes his hands into fists and takes a long, smiling pause.

“Ah man, that’s going to be...” he says, trailing off.

The poser? A fantasy World Cup final between New Zealand and Ireland. The ideal prospect for a Kiwi-born player who will likely pull on the green shirt next year.

“Ireland have done it before, so they’ll take confidence from that,” he said, opening up. “New Zealand — I don’t think they underestimated Ireland when they came to Dublin last year, but they’ll definitely have a better picture about what to expect.

“New Zealand didn’t kick that well that day, and the bounce of the ball went Ireland’s way all the way that day, and they took their chances. That’s how fine the margins are.

“It’d be a draw, go to extra time, drop goal... Jonathan can’t play 80, so it’d be Joey... who knows what’s going to happen?”

Lowe’s trademark mischievous side comes out toward the end, calling Johnny Sexton ‘Jonathan’ — which must be an inside joke that irks the outhalf — before aiming a jibe at his fragility.

But there’s no doubts about his Leinster team-mate’s qualities, Lowe simply enjoys being one of the few players who allows the dressing room banter to seep out into the real world.

It’s one reason, perhaps, he’s the ideal face for the Tackle Your Feelings campaign he helped relaunch in Dublin, the Rugby Players app and website promoting a positive approach to mental health.

Lowe will, in the spirit of any good dressing room, tear down a team-mate — but he’s always quick to follow it up with a laugh or a compliment.

So it is with Sexton, who is still ahead of Joey Carbery as Ireland No. 10, in both Joe Schmidt’s opinion and Lowe’s view.

Were it not for the fact Rob Kearney is the first choice full-back, Lowe would love to see Sexton and Carbery repeat the New Zealand trick of picking Richie Mo’unga at No. 10 with Barrett at 15.

“That would be the Irish version, wouldn’t it? It definitely could work,” Lowe said.

“To me, Joey’s like a 15 playing 10, not a 10 who could play 15. That there would be how I would see it.

“I still think he is a world-class 15 or 10. It is an awesome back-up to Jonathan if he does get a chance to start.

“It is awesome to see him back even if he is down the road now [Munster], he’s still a half-decent dude, but I’m still going to beat him up when we play him. I genuinely hope he does go well.”

Why a 15 playing 10, rather than the reverse?

“I think he is expansive, can create something out of nothing,” Lowe added.

“If you look at Jonathan, he’s the puppeteer, he’s got all the cards, he’s the dictator in a way.

“Joey is a lot more free-flowing, he likes to run the ball more. That would be it.

“I mean he’s got the skills set to play 10. I just think, in open space, Joey is better playing from 15.”

Yet, Lowe wouldn’t put his former team-mate in at full back — that’s Rob Kearney’s shirt as far as his Leinster colleague is concerned.

“I still hope Rob Kearney’s going to be fit and plays 15, they talked a lot last week of the ‘back three troubles’, but the game wasn’t going to be won in the back three, and all three of them played very, very well.

“Rob, when it comes to a World Cup, looking from the outside in, he’s the man you want there, you want someone awesome under the high ball, awesome in the backfield, makes good decisions. That’s not to say Jordan [Larmour] doesn’t, but Rob’s just ahead of him, he’s been around a while, he’s 42 now!”

Another smile breaks out, before we turn to the World Cup through a wider lens. Lowe spent months telling anyone on the fence to go to Japan if they could, and he’s been impressed by the spectacle, even from this distant remove.

New Zealand’s ruthless streak to take down South Africa impressed him most, while he feels the Scots could be in for a shock against Japan in the final pool game.

He’ll keep a close eye on it all, even as the PRO14 gets underway — but part of him wishes there was no such distraction.

“It’s weird man, the fact that we are about to go into a season while the Everest is happening in rugby,” he said.

“I still think we will get good crowds, especially at the RDS, because the games over there are played first thing in the morning so it’s not like they are going to clash.

“This is just me, though, I don’t think we should be playing yet.

“It’s weird. That’s just how it is. We’re still really looking forward to it.”

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