TOMMY BOWE believes that the Joe Schmidt-effect can inspire Ireland to new heights in 2014.
The winger is currently out of action with a torn adductor muscle that he suffered in the devastating defeat to New Zealand last month, but saw enough in the camp and in the November internationals to be hopeful of Ireland's prospects in next year's Six Nations.
The Ulster star is hoping to return to action for the province in mid-January when the groin injury clears up, the latest in a long list of afflictions he has suffered in the past two seasons.
Over that time he has been part of an Ireland team who have struggled for consistency and he believes that backing up big performances like the one against the All Blacks is the next step for Schmidt's side.
"It's just a fresh face coming in adds a bit of enthusiasm," he told Today FM.
"Joe's attention to detail is huge and the intensity he brings to training or meetings is incredible. There's a huge step-up whenever you go to Ireland camp now, that's the one thing that all of the Irish players have noticed. He's challenged the players, he's got a serious rugby brain and he'll be good for us in the future.
"We know as a team that we let ourselves down against Australia, we didn't play well that day which was really frustrating. We know we have great quality, we're full of world-class players, but it's a case of being consistent with our performances.
"We can pull out big performances against Australia in the World Cup or New Zealand, but we need to do it week-in, week-out."
Bowe (left) shed some light on the devastation wreaked by Ryan Crotty's late try for the All Blacks.
"The dressing room was very similar to the stadium, the place was just silent. It was heartbreak," he recalled.
"The players put absolutely everything into it, their bodies into it. We really shocked New Zealand and gave it our best, but it just shows the quality of New Zealand that they really fight to the very end.
"Everybody's absolutely gutted, we missed an opportunity there and we probably won't get an opportunity like that in a long time."
Meanwhile, Bowe is fighting to be fit in time for Ulster's last pool games against Montpellier at Ravenhill and Leicester Tigers at Welford Road, which have been fixed for Friday, January 10 and Saturday, January 18 respectively.
The only unbeaten team left in the tournament, Ulster look set for a quarter-final, but Bowe is expecting two tough assignments to come.
"We've still got two tough matches, we have Montpellier at home and Leicester away. Leicester are unbeaten apart from us and they'll be looking to get our scalp," he warned. "The guys are playing well at the moment, we've a great blend of experience and some real quality youth coming through, so we're looking good."