'I'm chomping at the bit' - Tommy Bowe not giving up on Ireland and Lions dreams
Injured Ulster winger eager to regain Ireland place - and he has Lions ambitions too
Tommy Bowe believes that he is finally nearing a return to full fitness as he looks to force his way back into the Ireland side as well into the reckoning for the Lions tour next summer.
The winger hasn't played for Ireland since he was stretchered off with a knee injury in the World Cup quarter-final defeat to Argentina last year.
The 32-year-old returned for Ulster in April but later aggravated the injury, which ruled him out of contention for the tour of South Africa in June.
While he faces stiff competition for his place in the Ulster team, Bowe insists that if he can get back into the Ireland side, he will give himself a good chance of being picked for a third consecutive Lions tour.
"Listen, I'm chomping at the bit," he said. "I hate not playing; even with Ulster I wasn't involved in the European Cup games, the two earlier on in the season. I don't enjoy that.
"I think I have done okay, but I'm still not at that level where I need to be, to be really challenging hard for an international spot or a provincial spot. So I'm working on it. I feel good and as each week goes by I'm working on it, and I feel I'm not too far away.
"I would love it (Lions tour). I was involved in the last two and without a doubt they are right up there as the pinnacle of my career, some of the best moments to remember. I do believe in myself, that I can push for that, but I need to get into the Ulster team first.
"If I can get back, have a good run of games and we can go well over this next period, I reckon I'm in with a shot of Ireland.
"And if I'm in with a shot of Ireland, the way the Ireland team are playing, then it's anybody's guess then.
"It's something I would love to be part of again, 100pc. Going to New Zealand, having watched what the Irish lads have done against them the last couple of weeks, yeah, definitely, it would be something I would love to be part of again - but I have a few more goals to try and hit first of all."
Bowe was speaking yesterday after it was confirmed that the Six Nations would introduce bonus points, and the Monaghan-born winger welcomed the decision.
"You want to see games where teams are being rewarded for tries and there's enterprising rugby," he said. "I think that's a real positive for the spectators and the players."
Anything that encourages rugby to be played more expansively is very much welcome in Tommy Bowe’s eyes so naturally enough as a try-scoring winger, he was pleased to see that the Six Nations will introduce bonus points on a trial basis next season.
‘A long time coming’ would appear to be the general consensus on the back of yesterday’s announcement and Bowe insists that the changes will only enhance the competition.
For quite some time, behind the scenes, the Six Nations were toying with the idea of bonus points but they were initially wary about changing a system that has provided plenty of thrilling spectacles – not least last year’s dramatic final day when Ireland retained the title.
“I think in terms of that all other club games have gone that way, it was only a matter of time that the Six Nations would have gotten to this stage,” Bowe maintained.
“I think personally, the competition doesn’t need a whole pile more. It’s always a very closely-fought competition.
“One of three teams that day (2015) could have won it and I don’t think you can get much more dramatic than that. Whether with this bonus-point system that it will ever get to that stage again, or maybe there might be more of an opportunity for that way to work, I’m not too sure.
“Certainly from a spectator’s point of view, if you’re a neutral or even if you’re an Ireland fan, that day couldn’t get much more (exciting).
“From my point of view as a winger, I think that promotes good play and trying to play a bit more expansive which is great.
“It adds a few more implications to the competition which I think going forward is probably the route that would have been expected seeing as it has been in the club competitions for a long time.
“We’re all so used to it at this stage with the club competitions so it was the natural step. I think it’s great to be rewarded for going out to try and score tries because as a spectator, which I have been for the last couple of games, you want to see games where teams are been awarded for tries and enterprising rugby.
“I think that’s a real positive for the spectators and the players.”
While Bowe believes that across the board defences have improved massively, the introduction of bonus points will force coaches to think outside the box and enhance their attack.
Joe Schmidt had come in for some unfair criticism for Ireland’s lack of cutting edge in this year’s Six Nations campaign but the Kiwi will welcome the changes, according to Bowe.
“Listen, the defences are getting so on top these days that it’s getting more and more difficult to score tries,” he said.
“You can see some plays that teams are pulling out that in years gone by there would be holes there or gaps but the defence now is becoming very well-organised so to try to maybe bring this is will hopefully make teams emphasise their attack more. Because it seems defence is becoming more and more important and attack is sometimes falling by the wayside a little bit.
“We scored 40 points against the All Blacks which was incredible. It shows we can do it. I think when Joe came in at the start we scored more tries than any Irish team had scored in the Six Nations.
“Listen, we know we can do it, that we can score tries. I think in the second All Blacks game people were saying we didn’t score a try when we had a lot of possession but the All Blacks, you can see by their recent performances over the past year, they don’t concede tries easily.
“I know it’s something Ireland will have looked at. I would be pretty sure that Ireland will be confident enough with the new changes. The fact that they have come in means we’ll go out to score more tries which will be positive.”
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