International rugby is no place to be learning on the job and, unfortunately for James Lowe, he is continuing to find that out the hard way.

International rugby is no place to be learning on the job and, unfortunately for James Lowe, he is continuing to find that out the hard way.
Lowes last act of a nightmare afternoon in Murrayfield was to throw a wild pass aimlessly into touch, which quickly prompted Andy Farrell to haul off the winger.
The Ireland head coach had clearly seen enough and he now must ask himself, how long more can he afford to stick with Lowe?
For his defensive blunder was not an isolated incident but rather the latest in an ever-growing list, which is now a real concern.
As Ronan OGara pointed out on TV afterwards, Lowe comes from a New Zealand background, where far less time is spent working on defence in training, as the majority of the focus in Super Rugby is on attack. It certainly shows.
Lowe was not alone in falling off a tackle, as his team-mates, particularly his fellow back-three players, also contributed to Irelands whopping 22 missed tackles.
The problem for Lowe is, his errors are increasingly becoming more high-profile and, as such, opposition teams know they can get after him.
That Scotland didnt even necessarily have to target Lowe to expose his defensive frailties to score what could have been a decisive try will have enraged Farrell, who has shown a lot of trust in the Leinster man.
Since becoming Irish-qualified last November, Lowe has been an automatic pick, despite failing to hit anything like the heights he regularly does at club level.
We are often told about how big the step up is to Test rugby and Lowes struggles have highlighted that.
Its easy to see why Farrell has been so eager to get the 28-year-old into the team, as his infectious personality is positive within the squad, while he can be a threat in attack.
After a strong try-scoring showing on his debut against Wales, we have seen very little of the spark and flair that Lowe brings with Leinster.
We have written about it in these pages several times in the past, but we still dont believe Irelands game-plan is set up to get the best out of Lowes attacking strengths.
However, no matter how good you are going forward, if you cant deliver in defence, then you are not going to survive at the top level of this game.
Farrell is not exactly short of options on the wing, which means he faces a big decision over the coming days as England will seek to exploit any weaknesses in Lowes game.
Back in November, he was heavily criticised for not chasing back hard enough, as he allowed several Ireland forwards to beat him in a sprint before Jonny May scored.
His work-rate off the ball was questioned then, and it has been highlighted again after Lowe didnt exactly look like he was bursting a gut to get back and stop Finn Russell from scoring.
Lowe couldnt have done much about Russells kick bouncing off him from such close range, yet he will wonder if he could have done more to beat the Scotland out-half to the ball in the first place. It makes you wonder how much of it is down to the mental side of things and in particular, the hunger and desire to get back and do the dirty work.
It had all started so brightly for Lowe, who was sharp early on, as Ireland looked to move the ball wide and get it to the powerful winger.
A lovely break down the left was coupled with a clever offload back inside for Johnny Sexton, which was a snapshot of everything good about Lowe.
It proved to be an all-too-rare flash of brilliance as his afternoon went from bad to worse. Although some may argue that he couldnt have done much to deny Russell, there should be no debate around Lowes role in Huw Jones try on the hour mark.
With Scotland quickly loading up the right side, Lowe found himself in a poor defensive position as he wasnt sure whether to bite in on Stuart Hogg or drift onto Jones.
That brief hesitation was all that was needed as Jones brushed passed Lowes desperate attempted tackle before powering his way over, and thus Ireland began to cough up what had looked like a comfortable 14-point lead.
There was no hiding place for Lowe, who doesnt need to be told that was an inexplicable error at any level, let alone in the Six Nations.
When were 14 points up and we concede that try it just changes the game again and we need to be better there, Sexton said.
We had a kick-off receive that we didnt deal well with, we had a lineout that we didnt deal well with and then we missed a tackle that we should have done better.
Youd have to ask everyone in the team. We obviously rely on each other, but its asking each other at that moment, what were your thoughts? What was your process? Why did you make the mistake? We need to figure out all these things together.
Farrell places a huge value on loyalty, which is perhaps why he has always been so well-liked by anyone who has worked under him. But there comes a point when the Ireland boss must ponder when that loyalty becomes blind faith.
With the fit-again Jacob Stockdale knocking on the door, along with Jordan Larmour and Andrew Conway, Farrell has decent alternatives available to him.
You miss a tackle and youre giving up seven points under the posts, Farrell said.
Well sit down with James and some others as well to keep educating regarding what international football is all about.
As far as progressing Jamess game, I suppose well help him as well help everyone else as well.
Right now, Lowe needs all the help he can get and in Farrell he has an ideal defensive specialist to help him eradicate the flaws within his game.
But with England coming to town, Farrell must now decide if that is the right environment for his out-of-sorts winger to further his learning.
James Lowe’s defensive issues
1: CJ Stander wins an important turnover and Garry Ringroses first instinct is to kick, which is easily blocked down. Suddenly, Ireland are scrambling to recover, with Stuart Hogg following up his charge-down by hacking the ball on. Lowe recognises the danger, but doesnt appear to work hard enough to beat Hogg to the ball.
2: We can see here how Lowe opted to check his run in the hope that Rob Herring would stop Hogg. But as soon as Finn Russell kicks the ball off Lowe from close range, there is nothing the Ireland winger can do as the damage is already done.
3: Lowes work-rate off the ball is something that was also called into question in the defeat to England last November when he allowed several Ireland forwards to beat him in a sprint before Jonny May scored.
4: Scotland get numbers on the right and it seems that Lowe has spotted the danger, but its less clear what the communication is like from him and those around him.
5: The reverse angle of this scenario gives us a better look at how the situation unfolds. Lowes (yellow) body position suggests hes unsure whether to bite in on Hogg (black) or drift out onto Scotlands two-man overlap. Hugo Keenan (red) doesnt come up to close the gap, while Jamison Gibson-Park (white) is sweeping across the back-field to try and cover the space in behind.
6: In the end, Lowe is caught in two minds and, as a result, he gets his tackle technique horribly wrong, as Huw Jones brushes him aside as if he wasnt there, before powering over for a very soft try that could have cost Ireland the win.
Online Editors