| 14.7°C Dublin

Fears grow on Bowe

Ireland coach Declan Kidney will go down on bended knee in the hope that Tommy Bowe's knee will heal in time for Ireland's Six Nations opener against Italy in Rome on Saturday week.

The injury pile is mounting, with number eight Jamie Heaslip (ankle) ruled out of the Italian job. Shane Horgan (knee) and John Hayes (groin) are certain to be absent from that one and the home date with France on Sunday, February 13.


Most critically, the back three area is approaching crisis point. Full-backs Rob Kearney (knee) and Geordan Murphy (foot) and wings Andrew Trimble (hand) and Horgan have been removed by injury, while Luke Fitzgerald is trying to find form following periods of injury to his knee and hip.

An inconclusive scan has meant Bowe travelled to the United Kingdom to seek further investigation into his knee injury yesterday, and he was joined by Heaslip.

The versatile, play-almost-anywhere Bowe could be asked to operate at full-back or on the left or right wings. He has come a long way down the road since making his Ireland debut as a raw, unappreciated kid against the US Eagles in November 2004.

He was lacking the confidence then that appears so natural now.

"There was a lot of doubt in my mind in the beginning," said Bowe. "I played three years at Irish U21s, having not played for Irish Schools. I got my first cap when I was 20.

"It has always been a bit of a roller-coaster. I have been up. I have been down. There were days at the time I started playing for Ireland when I was wondering. I wasn't getting any ball. I wasn't really confident when I did get the ball. I doubted myself."

Perhaps he was thrown into the deep end of international rugby before he had learned all the strokes necessary to survive at the highest level.

He went back to Ulster for refuge, for resurgence. It was there he won over the critics before leaving the nest in Belfast for the deeper pockets and deeper pool of talent at the Ospreys.

"I won Irish Players' Player of the Year the season before I went to the Ospreys. I had got back into the Irish team, having not played at the 2007 World Cup. I have Ulster to thank for that."

Bowe extended his stay in Wales by three years last summer.

"It was said at the time I stayed at the Ospreys when I could have got a lot more money at different clubs, not just in France either," he said.

Does The Farney man want to come back to Ireland? "I would love to come back. Ireland is my home. I will be 29 at that stage.

"It will be interesting to see how I am playing then.

"I would be open to offers from the other provinces, of course. I would have no qualms about going to one of them," he stated.

"My dad is from Waterford. He is a Munster man. He still sees himself that way, especially when Munster are going well. My mum is from Kildare. She likes to pull on the blue jersey now and again."

Bowe is quick to point to Leinster's adventurous style of rugby as a source of excitement to him. They play it his way, attacking on the angle and offloading whenever possible.

"Yeah, they're playing some great stuff. They're really firing at the minute. In the Leinster backline, there is not much room for me to go anywhere.

"They have players on the bench who would be starting in other teams. It shows the level of competition there. When players get a chance, they have to show their best to keep their place."

Just like Tommy Bowe.