Belfast Telegraph

We've improved since defeats to Connacht: Lowry

 

No go: Michael Lowry missed the defeats against Connacht
No go: Michael Lowry missed the defeats against Connacht
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

Perhaps somewhat fortunately in hindsight, Michael Lowry wasn't involved in either of the two previous meetings with Connacht this season, but he admits the Ulster squad is steeled with desire to put things right in tomorrow's quarter-final.

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With home advantage and a marginally better record this season, Dan McFarland's men were as much as six-point favourites yesterday. But having already ended a 58-year winless run in Belfast, as well as winning the return in Galway, the Kingspan Stadium will hold no fear for the westerners.

"I think that it is a great opportunity to put those two games to bed and show we have come a long way since then," said Lowry.

"We still have a long way to go and there is a lot we can improve on, but we are a team who are on the up and there is still a lot we can do to make the season better.

"I think after defeats like (the ones to Connacht) and the Munster defeat as well, those are the ones that really hurt you. You want to win every game but you can't and throughout the season there are so many learning curves.

"We are still in a great position now to go through these sort of matches, we have got to two knockout stages for the first time in a couple of years and it has been a good season so far but it would be great to end it on a high."

That previous knockout rugby - a narrow Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final loss to Leinster - ended a near 35-month wait for such an occasion, during which time at least nine of the names expected to be announced in the starting team today by McFarland have debuted for the province.

That a big game is no longer an unknown for this group will, Lowry believes, stand to them tomorrow.

"I think after that quarter-final we were really hurting, but it is something that we have learned a lot from," he said.

"It is the first time that group of players have been in that situation but I think that hopefully stands us in good stead.

"It has made us more hungry for success, it has certainly made me more hungry to get a bit of silverware down the seasons."

With Jacob Stockdale likely to be ruled out through injury for tomorrow's quarter-final, Lowry figures to be in the No.15 jersey once again, joining fellow youngsters Robert Baloucoune and Rob Lyttle in the back-three.

Primarily an out-half when winning a trio of Schools' Cup titles at RBAI, it's at full-back where he's played the majority of his senior rugby.

There had been some talk that, standing 5ft 6in tall and weighing just over 12 stone, playing deeper may suit his smaller frame but Lowry does not believe his stature will hold him back in the game.

"I think I actually prefer playing against big guys," he said.

"It is more of a challenge in terms of physicality, definitely, but I think sometimes it works to your advantage being a smaller guy.

"You can duck through tackles and use your feet to get past them.

"There's such a wide variety of players these days. You see the likes of Cheslin Kolbe tearing it up and Damian McKenzie.

"That gives you a lot of confidence, watching players like that. I don't think size should be an issue.

"It can help to be big in some aspects, but again there are advantages to being small. I have asked about gaining weight but the strength and conditioning staff have just said, 'You are in a skilful position rather than a carrying position'."

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