MIRACLE man Tommy Bowe will complete a remarkable recovery from injury when he lines up for the British and Irish Lions in tomorrow's second Test against Australia.
The Ireland wing's tour appeared to be over less than three weeks ago after he broke his hand during the 22-12 victory over Queensland Reds.
Initial medical opinion pointed emphatically to an early flight home, but Bowe has confounded logic and he will run out at the Etihad Stadium this weekend wearing a hurling glove for added protection.
"I was pretty much told it was curtains when I hurt my hand. On the side of the pitch, the doctor just said 'I'm sorry'," Bowe recalled.
"I went for X-rays and they all showed a spiral fracture down through the metacarpal. My family are all over here, and I just texted them all to say 'game over'. I thought that was it."
Lions doctor Eanna Falvey, though, rang Brisbane-based orthopaedic surgeon Dr Peter Rowan, and it proved a tour-changing moment for Bowe.
"Eanna called the surgeon, and he was the one who said 'I've had rugby league guys coming back within three weeks, maximum', so that was the shining light, the opportunity that there might be a chance to stay on," he said.
"When I got back to the hotel it was a range of emotion – to go from the lows, thinking your tour is over so early into it, to think that you have a chance.
"I didn't know whether I would be back in time for the Test matches, but there was always that opportunity, and to get picked now is an even higher emotion.
"In fairness to Dr Rowan – I think he normally sails, or does something on a Sunday morning – but he came in first thing to come and do the operation. I owe a huge amount to him."
Bowe, who has scored 26 tries in 51 Tests for Ireland, is one of the Lions' proven big-game players, which is a fact not lost on head coach Warren Gatland.
"We got some information pretty quickly in terms of the bone misplacement, and the surgeon said if everything went well there was a possibility of Tommy getting back on the field in three weeks," Gatland said.
"What we've tried to do with everyone is just not to make rash decisions, to give them 24-48 hours and then to reassess after that.
"Experienced players just come in and are able to slot in really quickly, and he did that on Tuesday morning. You could see the experience and quality was there, and that will give a boost to some of the other players.
"It was like George North being fit last week. It was a boost for the squad and the players around him."
The hurling glove idea came from remembering how Bowe's Ireland colleague Andrew Trimble wore one when be broke his hand a couple of years ago, and he was still able to play Test rugby.
"We got in touch with the guys over there (in Ireland), and a glove was shipped out," Bowe added.
"It feels good, it's just a bit of padding. It's not going to do anything good for me if I was to get a stamp directly on it, but it's just a bit of protection, more just a bit of padding. There is nothing on the inside, so nothing to affect my catching and passing."
Now that 29-year-old Bowe has a chance to play, his game-breaking ability could prove significant if the Lions are to end their run of 16 years without success overseas.
"Saturday is a huge pressure match, but that is what you want to play in," he said.
"As a professional player you want to push yourself, you want to play in the biggest games. With these big games, come massive rewards.
"It's 16 years since a Test series has been won. Everything felt in 2009 that it was geared up for us to win that series (in South Africa). To go 2-0 down was heartbreaking.
"If we were to go another couple of years without a win it would seem like 'what is going to happen with the Lions?' This is a great opportunity for us.
"We know how difficult it is to come down to the southern hemisphere and get a win. We know it has been such a long time, and we feel this could be our time."