Ulster’s Michael Lowry unfazed by hectic schedule

Michael Lowry has endured a busy spring and the workload shows no sign of easing up for the full-back.

By Ciaran Donaghy
Saturday, 26th March 2022, 7:00 am

He was part of Andy Farrell’s Ireland squad that won the Triple Crown and finished second in the Six Nations Championship behind France.

Lowry scored two tries on his international debut against Italy during the tournament and when he wasn’t in Dublin with the Ireland squad, he was back at Ulster as Dan McFarland’s side look to secure a top two finish in the United Rugby Championship and home advantage in the playoffs.

Lowry will start for his province on Saturday afternoon (13:00 GMT) as Ulster begin the first of two games in South Africa against the Stormers. They face the Bulls next Saturday while the following week they travel to France for the first leg of the European Champions Cup round of 16 clash against Toulouse.

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“It was challenging in terms of switching from Irish calls to Ulster calls,” said Lowry.

“Even the travel up the road back and forth and mentally preparing yourself for different games and different environments.

“The body is fine, we are always well looked after. We didn’t train every single day when we had that swap over because we would have travelled back to Ulster on the Wednesday afternoon.

“We’d always train on a Thursday if it was a Saturday game, but we had to take that day off to recover which was challenging for the rest of the team, because you always want your starting XV training two days before and with a few of us already having trained Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday that is not really viable,” he added.

“It was a challenging couple of months in terms of going back and forth but we all have to be willing to adapt and it is something that we have overcome quite well I think.”

The afternoon kick-off in Cape Town against the Stormers means Ulster will be playing in energy-sapping heat.

“We trained on Tuesday and Thursday and we are sort of getting used to the conditions on how hot it will be, and we have tried different methods of trying to cool ourselves down,” said Lowry.

“It is going to be a test but hopefully we can bring our attacking game and our best defensive performance of the season. The Stormers have quality individuals - it’s going to be a fast game and a fast track.”

It hasn’t been all work in Cape Town and the team had a chance to explore the sights when not in training.

“The food has been fantastic, there has been a lot of red meat,” said Lowry. “The beaches have been fantastic - it’s all part of it - just enjoying each other’s company, going to the beach, Table Top mountain; there have been a lot of memories that will last long and hopefully continue to grow us as a team.”

There is no Iain Henderson in the matchday squad so lock Alan O’Connor skippers the side on his 150th appearance for Ulster.

John Cooney gets the nod at scrum-half while Stuart Moore partners Stuart McCloskey in midfield.

Centre Luke Marshall is in line to make his first appearance since facing the Scarlets in November 2020.

Marshall’s career has been plagued by injury but after recovering from a knee problem he is named among the replacements.

Ulster: (15-9) Mike Lowry, Craig Gilroy, Stewart Moore, Stuart McCloskey, Rob Lyttle, Billy Burns, John Cooney; (1-8) Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor (Capt.), Kieran Treadwell, Greg Jones, Marcus Rea, Duane Vermeulen.

Replacements: Tom Stewart, Callum Reid, Gareth Milasinovich, Mick Kearney, Jordi Murphy, David Shanahan, Luke Marshall, Ethan McIlroy.