Tuesday 17 October 2017

Bowe nearing return to add another string to Gatland's back division

Tommy Bowe. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Tommy Bowe. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Conor George

Conor George

TOMMY BOWE is on course to be fit and available for the Lions in time for the second Test in Melbourne on June 29.

Lions coach Warren Gatland even went as far as to suggest the Ireland and Ulster winger might have been available for this weekend's opening encounter against Australia in Brisbane. The risk in rushing him back was not deemed necessary.

"Tommy is out of the cast and now it's a case of allowing the wound to heal," said Gatland.

"There was an outside chance of him being available for Saturday but the medics are confident he will be fully right in time for that game in Melbourne."

Bowe has yet to return to full training but is expected to be back this week which will be a marvellous fillip to the Lions side as attentions finally begin to zero in on the three-game Test series.

The winger was at the Sydney Football Stadium on Saturday night with his hand in a cast but he was clearly in good spirits.

Paul O'Connell was otherwise engaged on Saturday night as he put in yet another herculean performance for the Lions and further enhanced his reputation.

IMMENSE

O'Connell has been immense on the tour so far and if Sam Warburton does not play in the first Test, the towering second-row will assume the captaincy.

Warburton is not involved tomorrow night though which suggests Gatland will persevere with him for the first Test at least.

Brian O'Driscoll, Conor Murray, Rory Best and Sean O'Brien were also suited and booted in the stands on Saturday night. All but O'Driscoll are involved in the game against the Brumbies in Canberra tomorrow night.

O'Brien and Waratahs' coach Michael Cheika did share a handshake and a man-hug before the game in Sydney.

It's unlikely Jonathan Sexton and Cheika had as warm a reunion after the game given the special treatment the Waratahs players dished out to the Leinster pivot.

"I did get a dirty look from Jonny after the game alright," laughed Cheika when he was questioned about his team's treatment of the Ireland international.

Sexton played 49 minutes of the game and as well as scoring a try was outstanding in every other facet of the game.

Best, O'Brien and Rob Kearney – who finally made his Tour bow on Saturday night – all start tomorrow night's game while Conor Murray is included among the replacements.

Murray will, of course, be reunited with one of his former Munster coaches, Laurie Fisher, in Canberra. The former Munster forwards' coach is now in charge of the Brumbies' pack under head coach Jake White.

Irish Independent

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