Former Nelson College and Mako star James Lowe was back in Nelson recently on break from playing in Ireland for Leinster. He caught up with reporter Jonty Dine about Ireland, the All Blacks and his beloved Mako.
Local rugby hero James Lowe has yet to decide if he will give up on his All Black dream and pledge allegiance to Ireland.
After three seasons as a cult favorite at the Chiefs, James made the move to Dublin in 2017 to join European giants Leinster.
The 26-year-old winger made an immediate impression with his ability to beat a man and sniff out the try-line.
Half-way through his three-year residency which would make him eligible to represent Ireland, James says he has yet to officially declare his allegiance to either nation.
“It’s a bridge that will be crossed eventually, there is a lot to come in the next 18 months, but I am really enjoying myself and who knows what the future will hold.”
James recently returned to Nelson to surprise his parents.
“Mum almost had a tear running down her face.”
He says it has been refreshing to be back in the region.
“It’s so great to come home and see so many friendly faces, it’s put into perspective why I have gone overseas.”
James says he has been blessed to be doing the ‘one thing he’s good at’ on the other side of the world and set his family up for the future.
“It’s awesome, the club is performing very strongly at the moment.”
Leinster currently boast 16 internationals including Irish superstars Tadhg Furlong, Jordan Larmour and Jonny Sexton, making competition for starting spots fierce.
“I managed to come to a team that still challenges me every day, no jersey is ever guaranteed.”
The club is currently the kings of Europe having won the Pro 14 and Champions Cup titles in 2018.
“We have managed to win both comps last year and we are on track to do the same this year.”
Leinster recently attained the services of Argentinian legend Felipe Contempomi as their backs coach who has brought some South American flair to the side.
“It has been a breath of fresh air, I feel our back play has come so far, it’s been awesome to see.”
James says, while the style differs from footy at home, the level is still very high.
He says his move from Nelson to a city of four million was made smoother by the club.
“I was lucky enough to have everything laid out on a platter from a flat to cell phone, bank accounts and visas. It’s a credit to the club, they really look after their foreign boys, apart from the weather, it’s been bloody awesome so far.”
The Irish public have embraced James and his family.
“My girlfriend has settled in very well and my parents have been able to come over, they got more camera time at the game than I did, Ireland has just been very welcoming.”
He says the rise of Irish rugby to second in the world rankings has been impressive to witness.
“When they beat the All Blacks last year, it was the best game of footy I have ever seen,
With his home nation taking on his adopted, James’ loyalties were tested.
“I was completely on the fence. We were surrounded by Irish people but the way I saw it was I had 30 mates running around on a patch of grass trying to outplay each other, was an awesome spectacle.”
One team where his loyalties will never be questioned however are his beloved Mako.
“I watch them religiously, I’m so proud of where I come from. I’m a die hard Tasman supporter and will be till my last breath.”