Saturday, March 2, 2024

Ireland ‘in a great place’ after Italy win – Lowe

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James Lowe says Ireland are in a “great place” after defeating Italy 36-0 to continue their unbeaten start to the defence of their Six Nations title.

Lowe scored the fifth of Ireland’s six tries against the Italians in a one-sided game in Dublin.

After beating France in their opener, Ireland remain on course to win back-to-back Grand Slams.

“I’m happy with the performance and collectively we were on it today,” said Leinster wing Lowe.

“The set-piece absolutely dominated and it’s nice when you get a platform like that. It makes your job a little bit easier.”

Ireland went into Sunday’s match with Italy as heavy favourites to back up their superb victory over France in their Six Nations opener.

Jack Crowley, Dan Sheehan and Jack Conan touched down for Ireland in a dominant first half at Aviva Stadium.

Hooker Sheehan secured the bonus point before Lowe scored a superb solo try and wing Calvin Nash rounded out the win, to put Ireland in good spirits before their next match, at home to Wales on 24 February.

“We were pretty happy with the result,” added Lowe, 31.

“We will still look at the game and see why wasn’t it more or why wasn’t it better. We do it every week.

“To put in a performance like that at home in the second game of the Six Nations… going forward, we are in a great place.

“We will pick ourselves apart before we come back in, I think on Thursday, so we need to get on the front foot and see how we can get better.

“We probably left some points out there as well. Wales is a whole new challenge.”

Stuart McCloskey made his first start of the Six Nations against Italy

Centre Stuart McCloskey added that Ireland “would love” to retain the Six Nations and win a Grand Slam for a second consecutive year but cautioned the squad are not “getting too far ahead of themselves”.

“We know how hard it is to do. We have only done it four times in our history, so I think we are just looking at Wales,” he added.

Despite a strong start to their defence, McCloskey added that Ireland have room to improve and he rated Sunday’s win as a “seven or eight out of 10”.

“I thought we were very good but we probably left a couple of tries out there,” the 31-year-old Ulster centre said.

“Overall, we were very happy with our defensive effort. They are a good attacking team, we have seen that over the past two or three years.

“They have been improving all the time so to keep them to zero is a big effort from the lads.”

Captain Doris ‘outstanding’

With Peter O’Mahony absent from the squad, Caelan Doris was selected as Ireland captain for the first time against Italy and Lowe said his Leinster team-mate took the new leadership role “in his stride”.

“He is a great dude on and off the pitch. He is a very good learner and a great listener,” Lowe said.

“His speech before the game was outstanding, to the point [where it was] emotional, direct – it was like he has done it before.

“Fair play, he took it all in his stride and he was still outstanding.

“He talked about how nervous he was, but he has a great head on his shoulders.

“I think he is going to be around for a long time. He played outstanding.”

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