Leo Cullen is facing a selection headache regarding his overseas players ahead of the Champions Cup semi-final – and Luke Fitzgerald thinks that wing James Lowe should definitely be in the Leinster team to face Toulouse.
Head coach Cullen can only select two of Lowe, second row Scott Fardy and scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park, with the electric back three player the man to miss out in the Champions Cup quarter-final win over Ulster.
Lowe has been excellent for Leinster since arriving in late 2017, but missed the semi-final and final last year as Cullen’s side won a fourth European Cup.
With Leinster coming into Sunday’s final four clash in indifferent form, and given the threat Toulouse pose out wide, Fitzgerald thinks that Lowe should be one of the first names on the team-sheet.
“He has to play,” Fitzgerald said on The Left Wing, Independent.ie’s rugby podcast.
“I have been unbelievably impressed with the guy. He is so exciting. Against Glasgow, he is the guy who would have broken the game up. He has it all. It is a real dilemma. They only played Jamison Gibson-Park for eight minutes against Ulster and you have a guy like James Lowe not involved.”
If Lowe starts, Cullen will have to decide whether to pick former Wallaby Fardy or go with Gibson-Park as the back-up scrum-half to Luke McGrath. Fitzgerald thinks that Fardy’s body-of-work since arriving before last season should see him retained in the team.
“The issue then becomes between the other two guys and you would have to pick Fardy,” Fitzgerald added.
“Scott Fardy has gone under the radar. He has been unbelievable with the young guys around the set-up but he has also been great in the big games. I think you have to pick those two. Jamison Gibson-Park is an excellent player but Fardy and Lowe have to play for me.”
If Gibson-Park does miss out, Cullen would be deciding between Munster-bound Nick McCarthy and academy nine Hugh O’Sullivan. McCarthy was selected for last year’s quarter-final win over Saracens, but struggled off the bench, while O’Sullivan has only played six minutes of Champions Cup rugby.
Even so, Fitzgerald thinks selecting either option would be worth it to get Fardy and Lowe in the team.
“Nick McCarthy is a nice player,” Fitzgerald said.
“He needs time to grow at that level. Hugh O’Sullivan has been very good when he has got an opportunity. He is a young guy and it would be great to see him get a chance against Toulouse. He has lots of experience around him. I think you could fit a young guy in there, even if Luke McGrath went off after five minutes, which I presume is the scenario they are trying to guard against. I think you have to back a young guy there. Sometimes you just have to throw a guy in their and give them the opportunity.”
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