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Bowe on 'Boks

To paraphrase -- "What about his eyes?" It was that moment frozen in time on 2009 Grand Slam weekend when Tommy Bowe was summoned forth to centre stage.

Not for the defence-splitting try at The Millennium Stadium, but for that humiliating song choice at The Mansion House.

Under pain of persuasion, he started the engine of the song, The Black Velvet Band, in what would turn into a car crash rendition. The temporary screech was not backed up, as promised, by his team-mates, leaving Bowe to die the slowest of deaths.

It confirmed the man from Emyvale, in Monaghan, as one not quite as talented with a microphone in his hand as a rugby ball. It also turned the cameras on a sun-shining, handsome face, a marketing dream to rival that of Leinster full-back Robert Kearney. A star was born.

From his tentative Ireland debut against the US Eagles in 2004, this Osprey has soared. He has broken records as effortlessly as he has broken defences, becoming the first Monaghan man in 80 years to represent his country at rugby.

Bowe transferred to The Ospreys in 2008, becoming the top try scorer in the Magners League by the end of his first season at the club when he was also named the IRUPA Ireland Player of the Year. He may have been somewhat out of sight, but never too far from our minds.

Bowe was the standout rapier on the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa in 2009 where he first came into contact with what was then the best team on the planet, the 2007 World Champions.

"What I learned from that tour is that The Springboks bring an unbelievable physicality to their game and that it is always there when they most need it," stressed Bowe, ahead of the first of four Guinness November internationals at the Aviva Stadium.

Following on, Bowe was rewarded as the 2010 Six Nations Player of the Championship, winning more than 50pc of the total votes cast in a season in which

Ireland under-performed.

In fact, one of the few highlights of Ireland's international season was the 15-10 destruction of South Africa at Croke Park in which Jonathan Sexton struck five penalties.

"We definitely know what we need to do to beat them. There are enough Irish players who were involved with the British & Irish Lions and in the autumn last year who have the experience needed to get the job done," said Bowe.

No matter the spin about Brian O'Driscoll's hamstring, Bowe could ultimately be forced to slot into the centre at some stage for Ireland on Saturday.

"I have played a lot at centre this season. I played the two Heineken Cup games on the wing. Before that, I would have played mostly in the centre. I like the variety. It keeps you on your toes."

The question marks over the fitness of Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll and his most obvious understudy Keith Earls may open a gap which Bowe will be quick to burst through.

"I would feel very confident playing in the centre if I'm asked to. I started the third Lions test there. I have played there frequently for the Ospreys last season and this. I would be more than comfortable playing there.

"The wing suits my style of play, certainly with The Ospreys. You rarely stay out on the wing. You have licence to pop up all over the place whereas, in the centre, you are involved a lot more, but it is, in general, a lot more direct running.

"You are freer to use your instinct coming in from the wing."

The Ireland of international rugby is not The Ospreys of club. Are you given the same encouragement to trust your instincts by Declan Kidney?

"Yeah, I think it is happening more. At international level, the holes aren't always as big. It is just a case of getting my hands on the ball and trying to make things happen."

He nearly always makes things happen.


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