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Tommy Bowe: 'I'm sure Leicester will be licking their lips at the thoughts of us going back there'

Ulster recorded a Heineken Cup double over the Tigers last season.

ULSTER MAY HAVE been drawn in one of the toughest pools of the inaugural Rugby Champions Cup, but it’s not a challenge that Tommy Bowe is shirking away from.

The 30-year-old will play his first European game against Leicester this weekend, a team Ulster twice defeated in the pool stages last year before they were dismissed in the quarter-final by Saracens.

An improved performance is required in Europe this season, but Ulster are the in-form Irish side as they head to Welford Road and, given Leicester’s mounting injury list, Bowe feels reproducing last January’s win is very much “doable”.

“You want to play against the best teams in this tournament if you want to be successful,” he says. ”But the way the tournament is now it is going to be more and more difficult to get out of your group and having the likes of Leicester and going to Welford Road – that’s never an easy fixture. It’s almost a seasonal fixture for us at the moment.

“There is a bit of history there and I am sure they will be licking their lips at the thoughts of us going back to Welford Road first game up.

“They have been a little bit indifferent at the start of the season, but at Welford Road they’re going to be really up for this game. They know that we beat them twice last year and they will see this as a big opportunity to turn things around.

“It’s not going to be easy, but we’re very confident going over there we can get a result.”

Tommy Bowe Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

The general feeling in Ulster is that some important players are returning to form and fitness just in time for their assault on Europe. Bowe feels that Ulster’s hand is stronger than it was at the same stage last year.

“You have Luke Marshall, who had been carrying a few injuries, Stuart Olding, who is a fantastic talent, and then Stuart McCloskey who has played the last three games and played out of his skin, a big, strong boy with good ball skills as well.

“Then you have Darren Cave who might potentially play 12 and throughout the backline it’s like that, we have the same on the wings with myself, Trimby, Craig Gilroy, Mikey Allen, Rory Scholes.

“So through the backline I think we’ve got serious strength in depth and I think with the likes of Alan O’Connor coming in, Andy Warwick, the prop, they’re kind of guys who have stepped up from the Academy, they’ve shown that they’ve got the mettle for it, I think we’ve probably got a better squad than we had 12 months ago.”

UlsterÕs Tommy Bowe 17/5//2014 Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Some chance then for Ulster following a turbulent summer with a raft of changes, both in the playing squad and the staff. He understands why supporters were thinking “what the hell was going on” a few months ago, but feels the province now find themselves in a healthier position.

“There’s no doubt about it, losing Stephen Ferris, Paddy Wallace, Tom Court, people who have been with us a long time, part of the woodwork. Johan Muller, John Afoa, two very influential world class players – that was always going to be a loss.

“And then David Humphreys leaving, that was a big shock. With Mark (Anscombe) leaving that kind of came as a bit of a shock as well. But whenever we heard that Les was coming in the interim, I think it perked everybody up . I think it gave the squad the coaches, the whole organisation a real change of direction. It refocused us.

“I think he (Les) was excellent in the couple of months he came in. The players that have come in have really stepped up to the mark and pushed it a bit as well.”

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