Tommy Bowe may be lacking game time and fitness, but he doesn’t lack confidence.
The 32-year-old is eyeing up next year’s Lions Tour after making a belated return to action following his recovery from the knee ligament injury that ruined his World Cup and wrecked his entire season.
Bowe made just one appearance for Ulster in the 2015/16 season, and has made just three starts for the province this season — not enough to prove his fitness to Joe Schmidt ahead of the historic November series.
But the Monaghan man loves a challenge and is backing himself to not only push his way into contention in a talent-packed Ulster side, but also the Ireland set-up — and ultimately next summer’s Lions tour to New Zealand.
“Yeah, I would love it [to be picked for the Lions]. 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,” Bowe said.
“I do believe in myself, that I can push for that. I feel if I can get back a good run of games and I can play for Ulster and we can go well over this next period, I reckon I’m in with a shot of Ireland. And if we’re in with a shot of Ireland, the way the Ireland team are playing, then you know it’s anybody’s guess then.
“It’s something I would love to be part of again, 100%. 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 a frustrated onlooker for the entirety of Ireland’s November Test series, but had no complaints when he was left out of the squad by Joe Schmidt, having played just 100 minutes of rugby before the team left for Chicago.
“We look at it as a return to play and then a return to perform,” he said, of the progression from injury to full sharpness.
“But listen, I’m champing at the bit. 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. The competition we have in the back three at Ulster at the minute is phenomenal so for me I need to do everything I can in training and in those games. In those games, 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.”
Keith Earls, Simon Zebo, and Andrew Trimble have all impressed on the wing in November, but Bowe insists he relishes the challenge of fighting for his position on the wing.
“I’ve been in this situation so many times where I haven’t been picked or haven’t made this or haven’t made that, but I’ve come back from pretty lengthy and difficult injuries and I still got my way back into the team I’m trying to get into. So for me I love that challenge,” he said.
“I’ve been around the game for a long time now and it’s about finding things that you really want to go for and certainly having watched so much rugby and watched those autumn internationals and watched the European Cup with Ulster, I’m champing at the bit to try and get back there.”
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