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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

From the Land of the Long White Cloud to the Lone Star State

Photo courtesy of Texas A&M Rugby

James Lowrey wraps up an opponent in an Auckland Premier Club Rugby match in 2011.


Every morning, Texas A&M’s head rugby coach James Lowrey wakes up, walks his dog Nacho and prepares for his team’s upcoming match. Across the world, his hometown in Auckland, New Zealand, still slumbers, unaware of Lowrey’s dedication to bringing rugby to the forefront of the Lone Star State.
In New Zealand, rugby is everything.
“It’s a part of our life,” Lowrey said. “It’s a part of our New Zealand psyche. It’s a pioneer game.
“A lot of people who wanted a different life came to New Zealand,” Lowrey said.
Lowrey played rugby throughout his childhood. After attending film school in New Zealand, Lowrey headed to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film, a decision he said he considered for quite some time.
“With movies being my first love at the time, I had always had a desire to come to the United States,” Lowrey said. “When mum passed after a couple years, it changed my whole life … She was the love of my life, so it kind of compelled me to go and live my life, and she insisted on that.”
The love of rugby never left him. A chance meeting with friends at a rugby tour in Vancouver, British Columbia convinced Lowrey to come to Texas to play for the Austin Blacks. During his time in Austin, Lowrey would marry, “[settle] down” and become the forwards coach for Austin Westlake.
“The backs coach was an Aggie,” Lowrey said. “I went to L.A. … that fell through. I came back to Texas, and all the while I stayed connected with Aaron Cahoon who was the Aggie. He said ‘A&M wasn’t doing too hot – why don’t you come and take the job?’ So I came back, took the job.”
Since arriving at A&M in 2015, Lowrey has done more than just right the ship for a once-middling A&M rugby program. A&M rugby has won multiple Red River Rugby Conference championships and had a player drafted in the 2022 Major League Rugby draft. Jason Tidwell was selected 10th in the third round to join the Dallas Jackals, according to the Dallas Jackals.
Rugby is not currently an NCAA sport, according to, but Lowrey said he believes rugby’s U.S. future is bright.
“This country could be a powerhouse,” Lowrey said, “and then universities could reach a point where [they say] ‘Okay, rugby’s a big sport. What can we do for you and what can you do for us?’”
Not only does Lowrey believe America would benefit physically from rugby, he said players benefit psychologically from the values rugby instills.
“Specifically, work ethic,” Lowrey explained. “[Rugby is] a constant barrage on your character. I think that work ethic from helping your teammates is constant, and I think a lot of these boys struggle with attention.”
Those sentiments have been embraced by many of Lowrey’s players.
“One of those things [Lowrey values] is hard work and intention,” senior A&M scrum-half Matthew Mancillas said. “You need to go into everything with intention … It plays a factor on the field, but also off the field.”
On Tuesday, Dec. 13, @AggieRugbyFC announced on Instagram that after eight years, Lowrey had decided to leave his position as head coach for the Aggies.
On-field production is not the only thing Lowrey has taken away from coaching rugby.
“I’ve been invited to countless weddings with my young men,” Lowrey said. “And that’s what pays off. You don’t do it for the money. You do it for the people.”
A people-first mentality has been embraced – even cherished – by members of the rugby club.
“He’s a genuine, kind soul,” Manuel Zapata Sanchez said. “I lived with him for 10 days,” noted the senior A&M who plays first ⅝ on the team.
“If it were up to him, he wouldn’t charge me a dime,” Sanchez added. “He doesn’t care about that.”
That culture is simply indicative of rugby, Lowrey said, and perhaps the greatest benefit if people in the United States really embraced the sport.
“It’s an antidote for a lot of things that don’t need to be ailing us,” Lowrey said. “Rugby encompasses all. It’s a universal bond … Rugby has been a constant gift to me, and it’s something I’d like to help others share. A light to a pathway that they could probably enjoy themselves [in].”
Hunter Mitchell is a sport management junior and contributed this piece from the course Journalism 359: Reporting Sports to The Battalion.

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