Andy Farrell is hoping James Lowe can return to rugby in top form and make his case for an Ireland call-up this autumn inevitable.
The exciting Leinster wing qualifies for Ireland before the November international window after three years of residence here following his move from the Chiefs in his native New Zealand in 2017. Having scored 28 tries in 43 appearances for Leinster, the 28-year-old is likely to be brought into the Ireland squad by head coach Farrell at the first opportunity for a proposed eight-team tournament featuring the Six Nations countries and two other nations, expected to be Japan and Fiji.
Lowe will not be available for the two remaining 2020 Six Nations fixtures against Italy and France in late October, giving established homegrown wings Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Jordan Larmour and Jacob Stockdale a chance to remind the national team boss of their capabilities but Farrell is hopeful the naturalised Irishman can stir the selection pot a little more.
“He’s been great,” the head coach said on Thursday. “He’s been a great tonic for Irish rugby and he’s played some outstanding rugby over the years. Like everyone else, we’ll see how he comes back and how he performs in the early parts of the season. There are plenty of big games in which he can put up his hand.
“He is in the same position as everyone else. He is available from the beginning of November and he will be part of our plans in the same way as everyone else is.
“He’s a big guy, he’s strong, he loves getting on the ball as much as he can, he comes off his wing, he is hungry for the ball, he doesn’t like getting tackled that much, he has a great left boot and he is good in the air as well.
“He’s a great all-round player. I’m sure he can see parts of his game where there is room for improvement. Hopefully we can see him in top form so he can push his claims for selection.”
Farrell also spoke of the positive news about first-choice lock James Ryan’s recovery from a shoulder procedure after suffering an injury on his return from lockdown to training. Leinster head coach Leo Cullen on Wednesday said Ryan could be back in action in five to six weeks, so had plenty of time to gather momentum for Ireland’s first game of the restart at home to Italy on October 24.
“He’s certainly a great player and one that’s come on in massive strides over the last few years,” Farrell said of Ryan. “He’d be a loss to any team.
“He was one of those players that had used the lockdown time to his maximum. He came back in great shape and it was unfortunate to have a little bit of a setback but knowing James, he’ll use his time wisely throughout the injury to better himself, not just as a player but as a person.
“With the timeframes that are in front of us it looks like he could be back for the internationals and hopefully a few big games for Leinster before that, so we’ll see how he goes with his rehab and let him get on with it.”