Lowe over missing World Cup squad
It's safe to talk under-20s rugby with James Lowe now.
Just over two months ago, Lowe was devastated to learn that he'd missed selection in the New Zealand under-20 team that competed at the recent IRB Junior World Cup in South Africa.
Earlier indications were that the 19-year-old utility back and former New Zealand Schools representative had a good chance of making the side, compounding his frustration even more.
But his fortunes now appear to be on the rise after this week being confirmed in this year's Tasman Makos ITM Cup squad.
He admitted it was a good feeling to have made the squad and a timely boost after his earlier disappointment.
He said it was tough coming to terms with his non-selection for South Africa.
"I'd been given pretty good feedback from all the [New Zealand under-20] coaches and all the resource coaches and then all of a sudden to not have anything and not really be told why you've not made it was a shock. I was gutted really," Lowe said.
"I sort of had the week out and really did nothing to be honest. But I just got back into club rugby and things have been going well there."
And his reaction to New Zealand's loss to host team South Africa in the final?
"It's still a shame that [New Zealand] didn't win, but I did have a wee grin, to be honest."
Missing New Zealand selection has meant more time with his Waimea Old Boys club side who are still battling to make this year's Nelson Bays championship playoffs. And it's been his impressive form in Waimea's familiar red and white hoops that helped sway the Tasman selectors' thinking.
"I'm pretty happy with how my rugby's going at the moment. ITM Cup's a step up from club rugby, but I think I'm ready for it.
"Now that [Tasman] team training's just started and the team's starting to come together, it's quite a different experience to any other rugby that I've been a part of, so it's good."
Lowe said that as one of nine newcomers to the side, and the youngest, it was a case of mouth shut and eyes and ears open. And despite his ability to play at wing, centre or his preferred fullback position, he understood that the coaching staff were looking at him primarily as wing backup.
"I don't really see myself playing anywhere else just yet. I'm happy to be anywhere, I don't care if I'm just sitting on the bench. I mean there's Tom Marshall and Robbie [Malneek] at fullback and there's a few good centres there as well, so it doesn't really bother me where I play."
Lowe's involvement and preparation with the New Zealand under-20 training squad prior to the Junior World Cup had some obvious benefits.
He's among the Nelson Bays club competition's leading tryscorers this season, having touched down 10 times in a personal 83-point haul.
Waimea have been using him mainly in the No13 jersey and despite his team currently lying in sixth place, he was still positive about their chances of making the playoffs.
"I've been happy with my club rugby and Waimea are starting to get on a good wee role, so hopefully we can carry it on into the finals."
He agreed there was no doubt that Nelson deserved their favourite tag. But he now knows better than anyone how things can change.
"Nelson's a very big hurdle and they've been dominant throughout the whole season. They're still unbeaten, but anything can happen when you get to finals rugby and hopefully [Waimea] get there."
- © Fairfax NZ News