By Simon LewisRugby and Golf Correspondent
Aided by plenty of positive reinforcement, Tommy Bowe made amends for his pre-season Twickenham nightmare with a couple of World Cup tries at Wembley on Sunday.
The Lions wing took his Ireland career try tally to 30 at the weekend, edging past Denis Hickie into second on the all-time list, 16 behind record holder Brian O’Driscoll and putting to rest doubts that he was a player in desperate need of confidence after a series of errors in the early September defeat by England.
Yet will it have been enough to return Bowe to the right wing this Sunday to face Italy? The 31-year-old is taking nothing for granted under the demanding regime of head coach Joe Schmidt.
“I don’t know, to be honest with you. If I’d scored 10 tries Sunday, I don’t know if I’d have done enough. Joe has us all on our toes, Dave Kearney is playing exceptionally well so what can you do?
“Just got to keep your head down and keep going. Listen, if I don’t get my opportunity next weekend, hopefully I’ll get it the following week. It’s a tough competition, there are going to be injuries. Opportunities will come. You’ve just got to stay positive.” That positivity received several boosts in the period following Bowe’s poor game against England, when opposing wing Jonny May rode roughshod over the Irishman on the way to the try line.
“I spoke to the coaches, spoke to (sports psychologist) Enda McNulty, who’s involved with the team, spoke to my parents. Listen, I suppose I have a good support. We have a good support here in the team and outside that, too. Listen, it’s one bad performance, not something I’m going to get too hung up on.
“You forget about it, try and move on – though it keeps coming back! Listen, there’s a number of different ways of doing it. It’s more mental than anything. Everybody has a bad day at the office, everybody has a bad game.
“You’ve got to put it behind you, you’ve got to try and look at previous good games. I’ve plenty of good memories in the Irish jersey to look at. So you just move on, put a smile on your face, forget about it and get stuck into training the following week.”
McNulty is available to any player who wishes to avail of his services and Bowe has certainly seen the benefits of his counsel.
“Enda is there for people to talk to if they want to. It’s not put on them that they have to, but I think he’s been good. He deals with people in different ways, talks to them in different ways.
“He spoke to me about getting out there and putting a smile on my face, he reminded me of a lot of the good moments I’ve had in an Irish jersey just to try and move on from it.
“I think that that’s his area of expertise, if he can’t get players to come away with a smile on their face he’d be disappointed.
“He’s in the squad to try and keep morale high, to try and keep players who are disappointed knocking on the door and wanting to fight for their places. So, I think he’s been very good around the squad.” As to what the positive memories were that McNulty used to get Bowe smiling again, the wing felt he did not need to go into detail.
“Not anything in particular, but for me myself I have good memories in the Irish jersey. I’m fortunate to have lots of them and it’s just a case of briefly reminding yourself of that and getting on with the job in hand.”
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