However, there was some relief with Brian O’Driscoll’s assertion earlier in the day that he was still hopeful of a mid-to-late January return following his own bout of surgery last month.
Bowe’s bombshell is all the more disappointing given the Ulster wing tweeted the initial prognosis was not as bad as first feared after he was stretchered off during the province’s Heineken Cup defeat last Friday.
In a statement released yesterday, Ulster said that, though the surgery had been successful, it is expected the Monaghan man will miss four months after sustaining significant lateral ligament damage to his right knee.
Bowe, who has scored 26 tries in 51 Tests for Ireland, should regain full fitness ahead of the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia however, when the touring party is again expected to contain a considerable Irish playing presence.
Whether the captain will be Irish too remains to be seen but O’Driscoll doesn’t believe the chances have increased any just because Warren Gatland did not appoint an Irish coach to his management staff.
The New Zealander named an Anglo-Welsh coaching staff last week, with his Welsh assistant Rob Howley joined on the ticket for Australia by England’s Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell.
“I don’t think they’re going to be pushed into that,” said O’Driscoll at yesterday’s announcement that Lucozade Sport is to be the IRFU’s official sports drink. “I think they’ll make the right decision for the team, that’s got to be the way. It’s got nothing to do with the nationality, all of a sudden.
“You have to remember you’ve to forget nationalities when you become a Lion, it’s not about how many English guys are represented in the team, or Welsh, Scottish or Irish. It’s about Lions and it’s the one opportunity to put on the jersey and represent Britain and Ireland.”
O’Driscoll remains one of the favourites to eventually wear the armband, alongside Paul O’Connell who is also out injured at present, but he has been consistent in keeping public pronouncements about the Lions at arm’s length even though a Test series win remains a burning ambition.
For now, the priority remains getting back on the pitch after a frustrating and injury-blighted 2012 which restricted him to no more than a dozen games for club and country combined.
There were no definitive dates offered for his reappearance yesterday but the Six Nations opener against Wales in early February looks much more realistic than Leinster’s round five and six Heineken Cup fixtures in January for now.
“It is on track. I’m due to come back and play towards the end of January, I’m hoping to be back before that, but I don’t know. I could make it back for rounds five and six of the Heineken Cup, but I haven’t been thinking about it. I have been focusing on my rehab and some days you get little reality checks. For the most part it has been a pretty good rehab process.
“I’m not aiming at anything at the moment. I’m going day on day, session on session. The thing is, I’ve had surgery and it has to knit. Healing is going on there that, no matter how much work I do, I’m not in control of. I have to just wait for that to take properly and when that is secure and I’m given the go-ahead that it is secure from the specialist. That is the mindset that you need to go out and forget about the injury.”