Thursday 23 November 2017

'I'm fighting to get back in the number 14 jersey' - Tommy Bowe relishing selection battle

Cian Tracey in Wembley

It’s been a difficult few weeks for Tommy Bowe but yesterday’s performance suggested that he is nearing a return to his best form.

The nightmare in Twickenham may not be a distant memory just yet but Bowe is eager to put it behind him and move on.

The British and Irish Lions star is in unfamiliar territory now in that he is fighting for his place in Ireland’s starting XV but as he rightly pointed out, one performance doesn’t make him a bad player.

Dave Kearney’s form is such that he will push Bowe all the way for a starting berth but his two tries in the win over Italy will have boosted his confidence which was clearly on a low ebb after his poor display in the defeat to England.

 “I was disappointed with the performance,” he admitted at Ireland’s team hotel in Wembley this morning.

“I’d normally be relatively consistent with my performance and that day it was definitely one of the more difficult ones. I think I bounced back well from it.

“I’ve put it behind me early enough. The last week or two I’ve trained well. I wanted to get back out there and move on past it. I think I did that.”

Bowe may not be used to scrapping for his place in the team but it’s a challenge that he is ready to meet head on.

Watching the opening pool win over Canada was made all the more uncomfortable by Kearney and Keith Earls both playing their way to the top of the pecking order.

“Listen, it's tough, of course it is. I want to be playing every week. There's always going to come a time when there's players pushing for your place and I see it as a good challenge,” he insisted.

“I've enjoyed the challenge of competition right throughout my career and at the minute I'm having to fight to get back into the jersey again. Dave's playing exceptionally well, the whole back three are playing very well.

“Of course I'd love to be the number one and go on out there sure of my place but I think that added pressure, that added competition for places brings out the best in all of us.

“Training-wise I think everybody's just busting a gut to do all they can to put their hand up. The coaches are telling us there's spaces open, you go out there and put our hand up and we'll definitely consider you.

“So it's good to know that we all have an opportunity and they're not just closing the door because the team's picked already. It's good to know that we can go out there to make the difference.

“We’re back in training tomorrow, everybody’s back out onto the pitch again and we’ll just be doing what we can.

“That’s the strength of the squad, that the coaches really do have us under such pressure, we go out there, we don’t know anything, so we’re going out there to prove in whatever small way we can to try and just put our hand up and get ourselves in line for that game.”

As the Ireland squad move their base to Guilford on the outskirts of London, there is a real sense around the camp that their World Cup starts now.

They will return to London at the weekend and Bowe is only too aware that the quality of their opponents will be superior to anything they have faced in the opening two games.

“We knew that these two weeks were going to be difficult but it was a good opportunity for people to get game time. But the next two weeks we know they are crucial,” Bowe said.

“We know as a team if we win next weekend we’ve qualified out of the group which is a massive thing for us.

“And we’re coming up against two top-quality sides that we play year in, year out, and we know how difficult it’s going to be. It’s something we’re going to be looking forward to.”

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