'World-class' Henderson will bounce from injury nightmare, insists Bowe
For a while there, Ulster's medical room was becoming a lonely place for Tommy Bowe but that has all changed after the injury fall out from last weekend's costly win over Edinburgh.
Bowe's knee is still heavily strapped in a brace, but he hasn't ruled out a return for the Six Nations; the prognosis is not so encouraging for his team-mate Iain Henderson.
A "severe" hamstring tear has all but ruled Henderson out of the Six Nations and he may even miss the entire season.
Although there was no further update on the injury, Ulster's assistant coach Joe Barakat painted the grim reality of Henderson's plight.
"Hendy's situation is probably not a good one. It's severe. We're planning on him not being back this season," he admitted.
"If anything changes and there is a miraculous improvement in the diagnosis of the injury, it'll be an absolute positive for us."
Bowe, more than anyone, knows the tough road to recovery that lies ahead but for Henderson in particular, this is a devastating blow as he looked to build on his impressive performances at the World Cup.
With Ireland set for a new dawn without Paul O'Connell, Henderson was charged with the unenviable task of attempting to fill the void but few doubted his ability to do so on the back of his displays in recent months.
"It's a huge setback," Bowe conceded when speaking at a Kingspan-hosted media event in Dublin yesterday.
"I think Iain showed the world-class nature and the talent that he has at the World Cup. And for his ball carrying ability. . . with Paul O'Connell stepping out of the Irish fold, Hendy would have been great to come in.
"But at the minute, his injury doesn't look great. He's going to be a big loss for both Ulster and Ireland.
"I was struggling for company there for a little while but certainly last weekend was a very costly win for Ulster. The injury list has gone from pretty low to being pretty extensive."
Henderson had just managed to battle his way back from a serious finger injury, weeks ahead of schedule, before suffering the latest setback, but Bowe believes that the 23-year old's powers of recovery will see him back before the end of the season.
"I'm not even sure if he's too injured at all," Bowe smiled. "He's wandering around - he's actually out walking my dog at the moment.
"He's got incredible healing power - he ruptured some ligaments in his finger and it looked like he could be out for a couple of months but he was back playing after three or four weeks.
"It seemed like a pretty serious injury. His finger was pretty mangled looking, and how he was able to get himself back out onto the pitch was incredible.
"He is a very quick healer and he has a huge pain threshold. But I just don't know what the story with this injury is and it's pretty disappointing for him.
"It wouldn't surprise me (to see him back before the end of the season). I don't know what the craic is, what sort of surgery or what he is going to have to go for but fingers crossed it is not going to be too serious."
Bowe's own recovery is very much a slow process but he is hoping to remove the knee brace come January. It's a case of small steps but he's been down this road enough times before to know that patience is key.
Watching from the stands tomorrow against Toulouse won't be easy and despite the host of injuries, he expects a response from his side at home after the poor showing against Saracens last month that has left them very much on the back foot in their Champions Cup group.
Bowe started on the wing in 2006 when Ulster destroyed a Toulouse side who were one of the favourites to lift the Heineken Cup, and he is urging the current side to draw on that famous afternoon in Ravenhill.
"With the injuries we have it's pretty difficult but the one thing that Les (Kiss) has done since he's come in, for the short period he's been in (charge) is he has given a few fringe guys opportunities," Bowe maintained.
"He's going to have to rely on the extended squad and guys coming in and filling the position of the guys who are going to be missing.
"Toulouse, whether they are the team that they were years ago, I don't know. I played Toulouse at home and we had a great performance against them a few years ago. If we can pull out a big performance I think we are going to be right back in it again."