A huge outing is ahead for Irish rugby on Saturday. New Zealand make the trip to the Aviva Stadium to mark Ireland's second autumn international.
Confidence will be at an all-time high for Andy Farrell's side after their 60-5 drubbing of the Japanese over the weekend gone by.
While that was a day earmarked for celebration around centurion Johnny Sexton, this Saturday will hit close to home for some of the Irish squad.
Three New Zealand born players will play a big role in Dublin for Ireland as James Lowe, Jamison Gibson-Park and Bundee Aki all were grew up off the Pacific Ocean.
The former, Lowe, had one of many stellar outings against Japan, scoring the opening try of the game. Balls' Brett Igoe described his efforts as part of an 'industrious performance'.
🏉 | How Lowe can you go?@JamesLowe_03 and @JamisonGPark are both on the scoresheet as @IrishRugby lead Japan 29-0 at half-time, the scrum half's first try for Ireland! 🙌#IREvJPN pic.twitter.com/rm1uNlcoQF
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) November 6, 2021
New Zealand Ties
Now at 29 years of age, the Leinster winger knows Saturday's game will be a special one. "Some of my best friends are starters in the All Blacks team," he told the media.
Lowe went to Nelson College, just off the northern coast of New Zealand's two landmasses. It has produced many big names in world rugby.
David Havili and Ethan Blackadder were two he went through the school ranks with, with friendships struck up with a slew of others back in his Maori playing days.
"I went to school with two or three of them," Lowe said. "I played with a few of them when they were younger, and now they speak for themselves in the 15."
"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."
I grew up living next to @JamesLowe_03 for nearly 20 years. But here we are. The story of Nelson-born James Lowe who was on the verge of the @AllBlacks , now in line to suit up for Ireland 🇮🇪 pic.twitter.com/Rn2nOqrgcb
— Matt Hall-Smith (@MattHallSmith21) June 19, 2020
Ireland vs New Zealand
Last year, Lowe qualified to represent Ireland through residency rules, after enjoying three seasons of club rugby with Leinster.
The New Zealand matchup has come at a good time for the winger, who's enjoying a rejuvenated spell under Ireland coach Andy Farrell.
An error-strung Six Nations campaign gone by is well behind him now, as he looks to replicate some solid performances ahead of the weekend.
Having been in the mix with other All Blacks during his club rugby stint with the Chiefs, Lowe knows the test that they'll pose come Saturday.
"The performance was good but it's all about next weekend now," he said. "In terms of the measuring stick, New Zealand have been at the top of the pecking order for years."