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'I enjoy playing 13' - Tommy Bowe raring to get back in Ireland colours

The 30-year-old has prioritised first-team selection in November, but would be happy to start at outside centre.

Bowe [right] helped Paul O'Connell and Rob Kearney to launch Ireland's new Canterbury kits.
Bowe [right] helped Paul O'Connell and Rob Kearney to launch Ireland's new Canterbury kits.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

TOMMY BOWE SAYS he would be happy to feature at outside centre for Ireland, but insists he is simply focused on winning a place in the starting team this November, regardless of positioning.

Darren Cave and Fergus McFadden wore 13 for Joe Schmidt’s side on the June tour to Argentina, although neither player managed to make themselves undroppable ther despite solid performances.

Bowe is currently with the Irish squad at a mini-camp at Carton House – the players met yesterday and will return to training with their provinces tomorrow – where the likes of Robbie Henshaw, newcomer Jared Payne and Gordon D’Arcy also offer interesting options at 13.

Bowe, who missed Ireland’s 2014 Six Nations success through injury, has previous experience of playing at outside centre, particularly when with the Ospreys in Wales.

I enjoy playing 13,” says Bowe, “I played a lot there when I was over at the Ospreys and I was lucky enough to play the third Test of the Lions at 13 as well [in 2009]. I did enjoy it when I got the opportunity.

“I fairness I think mixing it up and going to different positions is always exciting for a player. Whenever you play in the one position you kind of… when you get to move to different positions you get to try different skills to round your game.

“I played only one game for Ulster last year at 13 and enjoyed it very much. At the minute, with the year that I’’ve had I need to concentrate on playing on the wing and get myself into form again.”

Bowe mentions that he has discussed a potential shift inside with assistant coach Les Kiss, as well as touching upon the topic with Schmidt briefly. For now, the 30-year-old simply wants to get back into a green jersey, with the November Tests against South Africa, Georgia and Australia representing the first chance to do so.

Tommy Bowe rejects as referee Nigel Owens gives Aaron Cruden a second kick at goal to win the game Bowe last played for Ireland in the 2013 November Test series. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“I think that for me, personally, having missed the summer tour, having missed the Six Nations, not having quite a lot of rugby last year, I think I have had a prolonged pre-season and I feel perhaps the best I’’ve felt in a good few years.

“I’’m just excited about getting back out onto the pitch and if that’’s on the wing, super. If I’m to get a go at 13, I’’ll definitely enjoy that challenge.”

What a challenge it would represent at this stage of Bowe’s career, despite his experience with the Ospreys. Much is made of the difficulty of defending the 13 channel at international level, something that was perhaps taken for granted at times during the Brian O’Driscoll era.

13 is probably the most difficult position on the pitch,” agrees Bowe. “It’s where gaps can definitely pick up and with Brian, we’’ve been very fortunate over the last few years that Brian’s defence has been one of the stand-out parts of his game.

“It’’s something that we do a lot of practice on. Any of the centres, they don’’t just jump in there. It comes with a lot of experience. I think over time you get to come to grips with it, but certainly the difference between playing at club level and international is a massive step up.

“Whoever gets that chance to play at 13, I’’m sure they will be more than capable of it.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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