After a year out of the Ireland jersey, Tommy Bowe has more reason than most to view the coming of the Joe Schmidt era as a clean slate.
Knee surgery made the Ulster wing one of the casualties that sent the injury rate through the roof during Declan Kidney’s final Six Nations campaign so the chance of a fresh start is a source of great excitement as Bowe prepares to face Samoa on Saturday.
The Lions hero is a little short on peak match fitness with only four games under his belt this season but he is hoping he will be included in Schmidt’s first team selection today, 50 weeks on from his 51st and last Ireland cap against Argentina.
“I always get excited by something new, a new challenge, new coaches coming in,” Bowe said. “I think that’s something that, between going to the Ospreys and coming back to Ulster, it’s always something that’s excited me and I think with Joe coming in I feel there’s a real challenge, a real step up and a real chance for you to try and prove yourself and that’s something that will try and push my game forward.”
Bowe scored two tries that November evening at the Aviva Stadium, taking his Test tally to 26 and maintaining a ratio of a try every other game in international rugby as Ireland produced a memorable performance in a must-win game against the Pumas.
Yet as far as Bowe is concerned, last season is history now, even if his ended well that day.
“Going into that Argentina game wasn’t really the best place to be. We felt under a lot of pressure but pulled out a big performance that day. It’s a fresh start for me, because it’s back into Irish camp, it’s a new coach and I don’t think many people will be thinking too much about last year’s Six Nations.
Bowe believes that despite it still being early days for the former Leinster boss, Schmidt has already introduced a clear, simple and effective game-plan for Ireland to go out and execute.
“There’s definitely clarity. We’ve stripped back a lot. Getting used to the new calls, patterns and plays took a week or so, but now that we’ve done that, things are quite simple, but at the same time there’s good clarity at the minute and it’s quite exciting. Although things are simple there are definitely areas that we can elaborate on and make space and create holes which is definitely something that for me as a winger is exciting.
“It’s very early, but going on Joe’s previous work with Leinster I’d be excited about his ambition. We’re just trying to get structures in place at the minute and it’s still obviously fairly early days.
“We’ve a big match this weekend but we’ve got a lot of things in place. It’s quite simple but at the same time there are a few tweaks that will hopefully open up holes and stretch teams which is something we’ll be looking to do. It’s fairly exciting times.”
Particularly for a wing, it seems, though Bowe reports a warm embrace from the collective towards Schmidt’s approach.
“He’s very keen for the wingers to get involved like all the backs. It’s a case of going hunting for the ball and that’s something I’m very excited about.
Players all have a specific purpose. Whether you’re a dummy runner or you’re getting the ball everyone has to be alive all of the time. I think that sort of urgency and intensity combined with the clarity has really pepped up the squad. Certainly in the last week or so training sessions have been really, really intense. And there’s been a huge step-up and that’s something the players have really enjoyed.”
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