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Ireland wing James Lowe is already relishing the prospect of locking horns with some of his best friends as he prepares to face his native New Zealand for the first time.
Lowe celebrated his international recall by scoring the opening try as the Irish launched their autumn campaign by thrashing Japan 60-5 on Saturday in Dublin.
The 29-year-old Leinster man qualified for his adopted nation last autumn through residency rules, having honed his skills playing alongside a number of the current All Blacks side in his homeland.
And, with the world’s top-ranked team due at the Aviva Stadium next weekend, he has swiftly turned his attention to a landmark occasion from a personal perspective.
“It’s obviously the country of my birth, where my family’s from, where I grew up, and where I learnt a lot of my trade,” said the former Maori All Blacks player.
“To have the opportunity now to potentially represent Ireland against them is something that is a challenge I knew was around the corner and a challenge that I can’t wait to put my best foot forward for.
“Some of my best friends are starters in that All Blacks team. I went to school with two or three of them, I played with a few of them when they were younger, and now they speak for themselves in the 15.
“The list goes on with the amount of people that helped me become a player through playing with them. And, mate, I can’t wait for next weekend.”
Lowe enjoyed close relationships with the likes of Anton Lienert-Brown, Damian McKenzie, Samisoni Taukei’aho and Brodie Retallick, while he, David Havili and Ethan Blackadder each attended Nelson College school.
The former Tasman and Chiefs back also previously played alongside Finlay Christie and Will Jordan.
He is among a trio of New Zealand-born players in Ireland’s current squad, in addition to Leinster team-mate Jamison Gibson-Park and Connacht centre Bundee Aki.
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“In terms of the measuring stick, New Zealand have been at the top of the pecking order for years,” he added.
“The likes of New Zealand, South Africa, England, they’re the ones you need to challenge yourselves against.
“The performance (against Japan) was good but it’s all about next weekend now.”
Lowe returned to Andy Farrell’s starting XV against the Brave Blossoms after being dropped for March’s Guinness Six Nations win over England.
Head coach Farrell said: “James had a little bit of a wake-up call.
“He went away and understood how he needed to prepare for international rugby, his preparation is through the roof in comparison to what it was before.
“He’s learned the hard way, there’s a few things that he needs to get better from Saturday as well but his attitude is in the right place and I’m sure that will happen.
“He’s not a tidy player but neither do we want our players to be tidy players, he finds a way into the game, he’s in great nick, he’s lost a bit of weight and is fit.”