Tommy Bowe faces up to eight weeks on sidelines with shoulder injury

Ireland and Lions winger Tommy Bowe faces up to eight weeks out of the game after suffering a shoulder injury when he came on as a replacement in Ulster’s thumping 38-7 defeat by Leinster at the RDS on Saturday evening.

Bowe, 33, has been blighted by injury since his return to Ulster in 2012, though he remains the leading try-scorer in PRO14 history.

“It looks like the injury is around the sternum, but we’re doing more tests,” said Kiss. “The doctor said Tommy would be out for weeks, so that could be anything getting up to eight. That’s a shame for him.”

Any lingering hopes Bowe had of forcing himself into Joe Schmidt’s Six Nations plans are now gone, and the fans favourite has set himself a target of returning for Ulster in March.

Meanwhile, Ulster have indicated they will announce next week the recruitment of an experienced overseas out-half to take over from Christian Leali’ifano, whose short-term deal ends at the end of next week.

Director of Rugby Les Kiss and Operations Manager Bryn Cunningham have identified the player they want, but with some contractual details still being completed they are unwilling to say who will replace the Australian, who returns to the Brumbles.

“It is a very difficult time of the year to try and get a replacement of quality that is going to make a difference to our squad but I think we’ve done that,” says Cunningham who ruled out any player from the northern hemisphere.

“As Les has said, we want an experienced out-half, someone to step in and to bring on youngsters like Johnny McPhillips.”

Speculation surrounds the likely recruit, with Stephen Donald, the 34-year-old former All Black, one of the front-runners. Capped 23 times, he’s currently playing in Japan but reportedly available and the 2011 World Cup-winner has experienced conditions in Europe, having played for Bath for two years until 2013. Donald would seem a sound short-term bet, ticking the boxes of experience and quality.

Australia’s Quade Cooper, the 29-year-old just released by Queensland Reds, is another big name who has been linked with Kingspan Stadium. 

Capped 70 times, the gifted, imaginative playmaker is a mercurial and colourful character with an unpredictable reputation. He spent a year with Toulon in 2015/16, making 15 appearances for the French side.

Like Leali’ifano, Cooper was born in New Zealand but brought up in Australia, though he was barred from the 2016 Olympics when it was discovered he’d never held an Australian passport.

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