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Dublin: 16 °C Saturday 21 September, 2019

'I want to play for Ireland': Bowe still hungry to break back into Schmidt's plans

The winger says he will try and ‘enjoy’ Saturday’s Test against South Africa having missed out on a place in the squad.

Bowe was at the Aviva Stadium this week to launch his partnership with Aviva.
Bowe was at the Aviva Stadium this week to launch his partnership with Aviva.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

AS TOMMY BOWE sits in one of the Aviva Stadium’s hospitality suites, overlooking a pitch which is being manicured ahead of a busy week, it’s not lost him on that he may not get the chance to play out there again.

For the first time in as long as he can remember, Bowe will watch Saturday’s Test against South Africa having missed out on selection for a reason other than injury as Joe Schmidt begins to shape his plans around the 2019 World Cup.

It would be a great shame if his last appearance in green was on that night in Cardiff when he laid stricken on the Millennium Stadium turf for the second time in 18 agonising months but, at the same, time Bowe is realistic.

He knows there are younger players coming through and the competition for places is as fierce as ever.

“Listen, of course I’d love to be involved,” he tells The42. “Getting to play for Ireland is something that is always an exciting opportunity and I always want to give myself the best opportunity to do it.

“But I’m realistic, I know I’m one of the older players in my position in the country and I know the three games coming up is a great opportunity for Joe to blood some new guys in to give them a real taste of top international rugby.”

The inclusion of Bowe’s Ulster team-mate Jacob Stockdale as well as Adam Byrne of Leinster and Munster’s Darren Sweetnam has seen him fall down Schmidt’s pecking order for this three-game series.

Many see it as the changing of the guard with Andrew Trimble — another centrally contracted player — also left out of the head coach’s plans as Japan 2019 comes into sharp focus.

But it doesn’t mean this is the beginning of the end for Bowe, even if his current IRFU contract expires next summer.

Ulster’s Tommy Bowe Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Having returned to full fitness after another luckless injury setback at the back-end of last season, the 69-time capped winger is back enjoying his rugby with Ulster without putting too much pressure on himself.

Bowe has featured in nine of Ulster’s 10 games this season — ‘I feel fresh’ — and remains as hungry as ever in training and on the pitch to consistently improve his game and achieve success with the northern province.

“I’m playing decent rugby, I’m enjoying it at the minute,” he continues. “I’m playing a lot and getting a lot of game time with Ulster. I’m enjoying doing what I’m doing at the minute, I’m enjoying playing week in, week out and that’s what you always want.

“Previously I put a huge amount of pressure on myself because I wanted to play for Ireland and wanted to be getting myself fit to push myself to play in the big, big games. I still have that hunger to play and as long as I feel I’m playing some good rugby, I want to play for Ireland, I do.

“But I know with the likes of Sweetnam, Jacob and the way Keith Earls is playing at the minute, the competition is high and with a World Cup coming up in two years, Joe and the management need to start getting players playing some consistent rugby.

“If the chance comes to go back down to Carton House and join up with the lads again I’d relish the opportunity.”

One of the players to usurp Bowe in the squad is Stockdale, who, after making his try-scoring debut in America during the summer, is set to make his first home start against the Springboks on Saturday.

The 21-year-old has continued his eye-catching form into this season with five tries in seven outings and is seen as the future with Schmidt clearly keen to fast-track his development this month.

“He’s a super player, a super guy,” Bowe says of his team-mate. “He’s got all the raw attributes to be a top notch player and winger. He’s got a very level head which is probably his greatest strength.

Tommy Bowe and Charles Piutau celebrate with try scorer Jacob Stockdale Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Coming into a backline last year as a 20-year-old with Charles Piutau, Trimble, myself and Jared Payne. A lot of guys with a lot of experience, he just slotted in with such ease. He had a massive impact and the form he has continued into this second season shows he has a head for the big games.

“I’ve been keeping track of Jacob for the last couple of years, he’s always been touted as a massive talent coming through. He’s been someone who has been earmarked for a while and it’s great he’s showing that promise. I hope that over the next couple of weeks he gets to show his talent.”

Bowe is looking forward to watching Stockdale get his chance against the ‘Boks on Saturday evening, but says it will only give him extra impetus to reignite his own international career moving towards the Six Nations.

“I’d like to think that there is still a place for me in Joe’s plans but again you have to be realistic as well,” he adds. “I’ll enjoy this 10-day break and try and sit back and enjoy the internationals.

“I’ll always have that feeling that I want to be there, or feel I should be there so I will of course be hungry to think I can be out there. I think it will give me an extra impetus going into the next block of games with Ulster.”

In his new ambassadorial role with Aviva, Tommy Bowe will work with Aviva to highlight its extensive range of insurance and financial products and support them across several rugby initiatives — including the Aviva Mini Rugby Festivals. For further information on the Aviva Mini Rugby Festivals, search ‘Aviva Mini Rugby’, or follow all the action on Aviva’s Facebook page and on Twitter, using #AvivaMinis. 

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