By Daniel Pitcher
Tommy Bowe is relishing the start of Ireland’s RBS Six Nations Championship and playing his part in what he hopes will be a successful defence of Ireland’s Six Nations crown.
The Ulsterman missed the entire 2014 campaign with injury, he also missed the summer tour to Argentina before returning to the national team for the successful November campaign -where Ireland scored wins over South Africa, Georgia and Australia.
The title defence gets underway on Saturday with a trip to the Stadio Olimpico in Rome to face Italy and Bowe is expected to take his place on the wing.
“It’s exciting, there’s a real buzz around the camp and even at the weekend going home everyone is talking about the Six Nations - so it’s an exciting couple of weeks ahead,” said Bowe.
In years gone by Italy were sometimes seen as the competition’s whipping boys, but those days have become a thing of the past.
One thing that proves that theory to be true is the result of Ireland’s last trip to Rome in 2013 during the Declan Kidney era, a 22-15 win for the Azzuri.
Bowe knows that - with an ever increasing international presence and a much physically stronger club scene with Treviso and Zebre - the Irish can take nothing for granted.
“We obviously know a lot of the Italian players having played against them for some of the Italian sides with more playing in England and France too. Certainly in the backline they have some exciting players.”
“The winger Sarto, Campagnaro the centre, they have quite a lot of threats so they are going to be a tough match for us,” said Bowe.
“We have struggled against them the last two times we have played them over in Italy, but we will go out there focused. First game they always come out of the blocks very hard and we will be prepared for that.”
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt will name his starting 15 to face Italy at lunchtime tomorrow.