It proved a shrewd move. Rowe’s first season in the Gallagher Premiership has been a great success. The winger’s 10 tries in all competitions helped the Exiles to an eighth place finish and spot in the Premiership Rugby Cup final against Worcester Warriors.
His performances caught the eye of Gregor Townsend who named him in his Six Nations squad and although Rowe didn’t play he was this week included in Scotland’s touring party for South America and looks set to make his debut over the summer.
Edinburgh’s loss has been London Irish’s gain and Rowe feels vindicated in his decision to leave Scotland. His sole outing under Cockerill was in the final game of last season when Edinburgh drew 28-28 with Scarlets in the Rainbow Cup in Llanelli.
“At Edinburgh I didn’t really get a shot,” said Rowe. “I played the last game of the season, it was kind of a dead rubber. As much as I loved playing for Edinburgh I knew it didn’t really mean anything. For me, it was just going out and showing what I could do.
“I hadn’t played for two years because of Covid and now at Irish I’ve shown what I can do and shown I can play at the top level. Now hopefully I can kick on and play some Test matches.”
Rowe, 24, had to endure some tough times. He was a contracted Scotland sevens player when the pandemic hit and found himself furloughed as the international circuit was suspended, forcing him to seek work away from rugby before getting the chance to train with Edinburgh.
“In 2019 I was playing sevens, loving life playing for Scotland. It was a dream come true because I didn’t think I’d ever play for Scotland at sevens.
“Then Covid hit, my job wasn’t secure with the sevens so I had to go and work in an Amazon warehouse in Bathgate.
“As much as it was tough for me mentally, it was a case of ‘just get it done, get through it’. Signing for London Irish was a breath of fresh air really getting out of the whole environment up here and just trying to find some form playing rugby and enjoy myself again. I know it was hard for a lot of people over Covid, so it was just a case of going down and enjoying myself.”
Townsend has been highly impressed by Rowe and sees the former Ayr winger as an option at full-back for the tour which begins with an A international against Chile on June 25 and continues with three Test matches against Argentina in July.
“What a season he’s had, on the back of getting one game for Edinburgh and not getting a contract in Scotland, to go down to London Irish, impress in pre-season and become one of the key players,” said the national coach.
“He’s got a real intelligence about his game and he’s another candidate for 15, he’s got a good kicking game, good in the air and I’ve seen him live in a few games, he’s a communicator on the field.”