James Lowe says there is no chance of complacency creeping into the Ireland squad as they aim to book their spot in the World Cup quarter-finalsVenue: Stade de France, Paris Date: Saturday, 7 October Kick-off: 20:00 BSTCoverage: Listen to live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Ulster, BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Sounds and online; follow text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.If you look at the head-to-head between Ireland and Scotland from down the years – all 146 years – you will see there’s barely a hair’s breadth between them.
Ireland have 69 wins, Scotland have 67.
But you could forgive James Lowe for thinking it wasn’t so close. In fact, the last time Scotland beat Ireland, in February 2017, Lowe hadn’t even begun his career in Irish rugby.
He joined Leinster a month later, incidentally, and has won every Ireland-Scotland fixture in which he’s been involved since making his Test debut in 2020.
Lowe has come up with some big moments in those games, too, not least his second-half try at Murrayfield in this year’s Six Nations which put Ireland in the box seat for a 22-7 win that kept their Grand Slam dream alive.
The New Zealand-born wing is certainly one of the more entertaining speakers among the Irish squad – at least when it comes to addressing a room full of reporters – and he was hitting all the right notes on the eve of Saturday’s crucial Pool B clash with the Scots as both teams aim to secure World Cup knockout rugby.
“Scotland are an amazing team who have definitely pushed us,” said the 31-year-old wing, taking the chance to talk up the opposition.
“We’ve had the better end of the stick in the last few encounters. They’re a team that play with a lot of passion and width and physicality.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge. They definitely have one of the best 10s in the world [Finn Russell]. They’ve picked a nine [Ali Price] who likes running from the base and they’re definitely going to go in with the mindset of scoring tries and putting us under pressure.
“Six-two split on the bench. They’ve got a lot of forwards, impact players that are also able to change a match so we need to make sure we match them there as well.”
O’Mahony, Ireland’s ‘life and soul’, prepares for 100th cap’Ireland must learn from past mistakes in Scots showdown”Ireland are on a good run but Scotland will end it’Lowe clearly has a lot of admiration for Scotland. He called Darcy Graham “exceptional” and described Duhan van der Merwe as a “behemoth” who is a “serious threat”.
The thing is, though, the Scotland team Ireland will face on Saturday is basically the same side they beat at Murrayfield in March, with the now-retired Stuart Hogg an obvious exception.
At Murrayfield, Ireland lost two hookers and Caelan Doris and still proved far too strong for Gregor Townsend’s side. Given that Ireland have won every match since, including that rousing victory over the Springboks a fortnight ago, a lot of people aren’t giving Scotland much hope.
Permutations play a part in that, naturally. Scotland would ideally like a win while denying Ireland a bonus point.
If that means winning by eight, then it would mean doing something Scotland haven’t managed since 2001 and a time when not even Townsend’s suspect goal-kicking could stop them roaring to a 32-10 win.
A scoreline so heavily in Scotland’s favour is unlikely to come about in Paris on Saturday, as Ireland certainly do not seem in danger of letting slip their guard against complacency, even in the midst of a 16-match winning run.
“Obviously it does give us confidence in what we’ve done over the last three, four years in terms of what we’ve built,” Lowe said of Ireland’s impressive sequence of results.
“We know what works, but like I said earlier, even in wins there are things to learn. Invincible? I wouldn’t go anywhere near that word. Complacency is something that can’t creep into this group as well.
“We understand they’re serious threats and we’ve respected every opposition we’ve played so far in this competition.
“We’re just as diligent with Scotland as we were against South Africa, Romania and Tonga.”
Lowe scored a try in Ireland’s Six Nations win over Scotland at Murrayfield in MarchIreland, as they often are, were relaxed and jovial while conducting their eve-of-match media commitments at the Stade de France on Friday.
The news conference involving Lowe, scrum coach John Fogarty and lock Tadhg Beirne began with an amusing moment when Lowe was introduced as “Alex Lowe” – the name of a rugby journalist from the Times. Lowe also cracked a smile while saying he was keeping his moustache long as his wife hated it.
There was also a bit of fun around Beirne’s last-minute call-up to replace Andrew Porter in front of the media, while Fogarty prompted the biggest laughs when he joked that some of Ireland’s players had their own way of dealing with bedbugs.
“Some of the lads fumigate their beds naturally, so there’s no issue,” said Fogarty, who said the squad are yet to come across any bedbugs in France.
Ireland’s laidback approach stops with their media obligations, though. They have shown time and time again that when it comes to the matches, they take nothing for granted.
They certainly won’t against Scotland, with Andy Farrell sensing an opportunity to shuffle his pack by dropping James Ryan – who is fit according to Farrell – for Iain Henderson and Ronan Kelleher for fit-again Dan Sheehan.
While Ryan had been battling a wrist issue before Farrell confirmed his fitness on Thursday, this can be construed as a well-timed reminder from Farrell that he is not afraid to shake things up, even when the team keeps winning.
That in itself should be enough incentive for players who dream of potentially taking part in a World Cup quarter-final against the All Blacks.
What do Ireland and Scotland need to qualify?