11th February 2024; Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland: Six Nations International Rugby, Ireland versus Italy; Jack Crowley of Ireland makes a run with the ball covered by Zilocchi of Italy
James Lowe has been impressed by Jack Crowley’s start to life in the Ireland fly-half jersey, even if the youngster hasn’t picked up a couple of Johnny Sexton’s famous traits just yet.
The talented playmaker has taken over from the retired Sexton as the country’s number one pivot and has shone in the first two rounds.
Crowley looked assured against France before moving up a level at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday, dictating play and producing several moments of individual class.
Contribution in Dublin
Ireland eventually went away with a dominant 36-0 triumph over the Azzurri, with the fly-half contributing a try and two conversions in the win.
But it was his ability to put runners into space, make the right decision on the gain line and the overall control of the backline which really stood out.
The 24-year-old will naturally be compared to the great Sexton, who was the clear first choice fly-half for a decade before his retirement after the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
There were worries over the country’s fly-half stocks going into this Six Nations campaign, but Crowley has put himself at the top of the list to take that jersey in the long-term.
“There’s a lot of pressure on him, there’s been some world-class 10s come before him, so he’s taken it in his stride, bossing around week to week,” Lowe said.
“He hasn’t quite got that Sexto aura about him, he hasn’t got the staredown packed yet, but he’s awesome and growing into it.
“He showed a bit to his game, slotting into 15 as well so fair play to him. He’s a young man with a good head on his shoulders and I think he could go far in this game.”
There is no doubt that Crowley has been given a significant helping hand by his pack, who have laid an incredible platform over the first two weeks.
They dominated France before putting the Italian set-piece under immense pressure throughout the contest on Sunday.
It has allowed the half-backs an easy ride, but they will no doubt face different challenges as the tournament goes on.
Next up for Ireland is Wales before they take on England at Twickenham, which will be an interesting test for the fly-half.
The Red Rose are employing a Springbok-like rush defence that flies up in the face of the backline and forces players to make quick decisions. Although it leaves space, especially out wide, the task is to find it when under significant pressure.
However, should the forwards excel like they did against France and Italy then the Irishmen will likely take the next two steps towards a second Grand Slam in a row.
“Happy with the performance, collectively we were on it,” Lowe said after their triumph over Italy.
“Set-piece absolutely dominated and it’s nice when you get a platform like that a couple of weeks in a row, so it sort of makes your job a little bit easier.”News Related