Highlights on Off The Ball

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Highlights on Off The Ball


Lowe adds extra dimension for Farrell, but Earls the calming influence

Andy Farrell says James Lowe will add an extra dimension to the Ireland side this autumn.  The K...

Andy Farrell says James Lowe will add an extra dimension to the Ireland side this autumn. 

The Kiwi-born Leinster winger will earn his first cap on Friday night when he starts against Wales at the Aviva Stadium in the Autumn Nations Cup.

Perhaps just as important for the head coach is the long-awaited return from injury of Keith Earls. The Munster man was a notable absentee from the conclusion of Ireland's Six Nations campaign.

For Farrell, it's about getting the perfect blend.

"I think he brings an extra dimension to how we want to play," he said of the first cap for Lowe.

"We've all seen him play in the PRO14 and what he brings for Leinster, so hopefully he can definitely bring the same.

"Hopefully, on top of that with a good performance at the weekend, he brings another dimension and competition for places back into our squad which is very important going forward."

Another player poised to make their international bow on Friday is Ulster out-half Billy Burns.

He's been picked ahead of Ross Byrne as Jonathan Sexton's back-up against the Welsh.

"Billy gets his chance. Ross has played a few games for us and done well in the past," Farrell told his press conference.

"Billy - like I said a few days ago - he's somebody that we looked at before lockdown. And he was great in training then, and he's come back fit again.

"Obviously we assess him at the beginning of the week and see how he goes etc, and we'll give him an opportunity to show us what he's got at the international stage at the weekend."

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Farrell concedes it wasn't his necessarily his intention to give debuts to as many as ten players this autumn, but injuries have played a part

Hugo Keenan has been among those to take their chance, and he continues on the opposite wing to Lowe.

But waiting in the wings once again is Keith Earls.

"He's been frustrated at not being able to get back to fitness, but he's had a great three weeks," the head coach said of the Munster stalwart's return.

"He's been unbelievably good in and around the squad, helping the new caps - the newcomers - the guys that haven't been around the squad for so long.

"And he's a calming influence on everyone.

"This is our chance to get him back up and running. He comes off the bench and he'll certainly add when he comes on, that's for sure.

"He is looking sharp.

And it's people like Keith who get the blend right for us. What you can't do is just throw people out there and expect them to swim. You've got to put people like Keith in and around the group to make sure that it feels right.

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Andy Farrell Autumn Nations Cup Earls Farrell Ireland James Lowe Keith Earls Lowe