Bowe admits Ulster coaching shake-up put switch in doubt
Tommy Bowe has admitted that the coaching uncertainty at Ulster could have plunged his big-money move back home into doubt.
Munster, Leinster and a host of top French clubs were chasing the 28-year-old's signature after similar coaching chaos forced him to seek an early flight home from the Ospreys.
However, the Monaghan man plumped for Ulster, even though director of rugby David Humphreys had yet to confirm the arrival of the new head coach, New Zealander Mark Anscombe.
Anscombe's unheralded arrival mirrors the coming of Leinster's two Heineken Cup-winning coaches, Michael Cheika and Joe Schmidt, both of whom won Heineken Cups in their first major professional coaching stints.
However, the appointment reflects poorly on the IRFU's paltry efforts to propagate an indigenous coaching pool in this country.
"It was a concern, it definitely was," said Bowe after clinching a three-year deal with the province purported to be worth more than £1m.
"One of my big issues was that in my playing career I've never really felt part of a settled squad. When I went to the Ospreys they were going extremely well under Lyn Jones. They thrashed Saracens in the LV semi-final, went on and beat Leicester in the final and should have beaten Saracens in the quarter-final of the Heineken Cup.
"They were really booming and all of a sudden Lyn got dropped and a new coaching structure came in. It's been a little bit all over the place and it was the same at Ulster whenever I was there.
"They'd Mark McCall and Matt Williams. That doubt would be one thing I was a little bit wary of, but I think 'Humphs' is still there, the senior players are still there.
"That decides a lot of things around the pitch and I think a new coach coming in will be a strong thing for Ulster heading into the future."
While the interest from Leinster may not have been overtly aggressive, Bowe also revealed that there was more than a little interest from their provincial rivals Munster.
"I was aware that Munster were interested in me," he said. "I didn't really speak so much to Garrett Fitzgerald (Munster CEO) or anything but I was well aware Munster were interested.
"I know the players very well. Munster would always be a team I'd be very interested in joining.
"I looked at a few options, it would be silly not to. I liked the idea of getting away and playing in a bit of sunshine.
"But at the same time my Ireland career is at the forefront of my plans. I realise that playing with the Ospreys you are still playing in the RaboDirect league and it's very easy for coaches to see you as you're playing against the Irish provinces once every four weeks. If I moved further abroad it'd be more difficult to hold on to my Irish jersey."
Bowe hopes that the move back to Ulster can further his ambitions to jostle with Keith Earls and Luke Fitzgerald for long-term residency in Brian O'Driscoll's No 13 jersey.
"I'd be open to play at 13 for Ulster, without a doubt. I've played 13, 14, 15 and 11 for the Ospreys, mixed it up quite a lot.
"At the minute my preferred position is the wing, it's where I feel most comfortable and where I'm playing most of my rugby. I would like to give it a go at 13 definitely, but it's a case of getting a run of games and seeing if I can step up to the plate."
New Ulster coach Anscombe (54) has just finished a three-year term as head coach of the Auckland ITM Cup side and has combined that role with a number of positions in the very successful New Zealand Z U-20 squad. Last year, Anscombe was head coach as they again triumphed in the Junior World Championships in Italy.
"It has been a long and detailed process but we're now delighted to confirm that Mark will be joining us next season," said Humphreys.
"We all believe that he has the experience, ability and knowledge to build on the success of the last two years."