Bowe, with three tries to his name already in this year’s RBS 6 Nations, will once again be on the wing for Ireland on Sunday afternoon against France at Stade de France. Yet while he grabbed two of those scores in last Saturday’s victory over Italy he finished the game at outside centre, as head coach Declan Kidney continues to assess his option in that position in the absence of the injured Brian O’Driscoll.
Munster’s Keith Earls started in the number 13 Ireland jersey made so iconic by O’Driscoll and his extended time in the position during his province’s winning run to next month’s Heineken Cup quarter-finals has made him the standout candidate so far to become his country’s outside centre once O’Driscoll retires.
The 24-year-old had been picked there for the opening game against Wales only to withdraw on the eve of the match due to family reasons. Leinster’s Fergus McFadden stood in at 13 when Ireland went down to a narrow defeat but Earls was recalled for the original date against France on February 11, only to be denied by the frozen pitch at Stade de France on that freezing night in Paris.
He made up for lost time last Saturday and scored the opening try for Ireland while Bowe chipped in with a vital score on half-time and added another 15 minutes after the restart before making his switch to outside centre when McFadden replaced Earls in the 68th minute.
With the trio in camp, Eoin O’Malley starring at 13 for the Ireland Wolfhounds against the England Saxons in January, Eoin Griffin finding his way back from injury and Darren Cave still out of action, Bowe believes there is plenty of versatility in the Ireland set-up.
“Yeah I thought Keith played very well at 13 this week. Obviously there are big shoes to fill there,” Bowe said in a video interview to be posted on the IRFU website today.
“I thought Ferg played well against the Welsh and then Keith came in again and had another good game.
“For me, my preferred position would definitely be on the wing but if I was asked to go into 13 I’d be more than happy to do that. I’ve played there quite a bit for the Ospreys and it would be an extra skill set for me, I suppose, going forward.”
Last Saturday’s five-try outing was encouraging for the Ireland backline, with Andrew Trimble also getting on the scoresheet, and Bowe believes things are just about starting to click under a new coaching structure in attack with defence coach Les Kiss, kicking coach Mark Tainton and video analyst Merv Murphy all contributing to the cause in enhanced roles.
“I think the coaches have been around a long time but it’s just putting their little touches on it, and I think whenever we get into the opposition’s half we have always looked dangerous.
“Our own problem over the last couple of weeks is really getting out of our own half. The last couple of weeks, between Wales and Italy, whenever we’ve got down there we’ve got points and we’ve scored quite a few tries.”
That certainly suits Bowe, given his strike-rate in this year’s championship and a try in Paris would not only be of vital importance to Ireland but would mark the 28-year-old’s first against France.
Ireland’s poor record in France is of greater concern but Bowe is keen to ignore that run of no wins since 2000 and just concentrate on getting the job done this weekend.
“It’s a huge game for us. We played them last year and we lost, but we still scored three tries to one.
“Our indiscipline really cost us and I think whenever we go to the Stade de France we really can’t give them the opportunities to score easy three points and easy penalties, kicking into the corners and scrums.”
Getting a win in Paris will also, agreed Bowe, ease the strain of playing four Tests in as many weeks following the rescheduling of this game from its original date, with a home game to come against Scotland six days later before a March 17 finale against England at Twickenham.
“Obviously in international rugby it’s a little bit more difficult but you know with the clubs we play week after week after week throughout most of the season so it’s just a case of trying to keep everybody injury free and getting on with it.
“I think we’ve got off to a winning start [to the four-game run] and hopefully we’ll get on a roll and we can roll it on from there in Paris.”