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Dublin: 13 °C Tuesday 10 December, 2019

'You find out like everyone else on TV. It's cruel in a sense but adds to the whole drama of it'

As Warren Gatland prepares to name his Lions squad for this summer’s tour, Tommy Bowe recalls his anxious wait to receive the call in 2009 and 2013.

COME TWELVE O’CLOCK this afternoon, all the speculation and prediction will be put to bed as Warren Gatland reveals who is, and who’s not, in his Lions squad for this summer’s tour to New Zealand.

Warren Gatland Lions head coach Warren Gatland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The head coach will announce the touring party at a press conference in London as those vying for inclusion learn of their fate along with the rest of the rugby world. There is no official phone call, text message or email; it’s all a waiting game.

As the announcement is made, the vast majority of players in the running are likely to be on the training paddock with their club or province and the good, or indeed bad, news will then filter through via coaches or other players who have been following events in London closely.

He was fortunate enough to receive good news on both occasions, but Tommy Bowe knows exactly what the players will be going through this morning as they wait to hear if they’ll be heading to New Zealand or not.

The Ireland winger was with the Ospreys in 2009 when he earned his first call-up and four years later was in the middle of a session with Ulster when he was pulled aside and told to make sure his passport was in date.

“I remember we had to train in the Vale of Glamorgan on the morning of the announcement, and Sean Holley called us in at the end of the session, and was handed a piece of paper,” Bowe explains.

“He got us into a huddle and he named something like seven or eight players from our team who were called into that squad. That was my first tour and I couldn’t describe how exciting it was.

“I remember so well Ryan Jones wasn’t named in the squad and it was a real shock, as he was our captain. He had been going really well. He came out later, but got injured again unfortunately.

Tommy Bowe Bowe in action during the first Test against South Africa in 2009. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“In 2009, I’m sure the likes of Ryan and the players who didn’t get picked, must have been devastated, but you’re just so happy for yourself, so selfish, that you almost don’t take that in. It’s only as I get older I see that other side of it.

“It’s such a buzz, people are congratulating you on your first tour. The phone goes crazy, people are so happy for you.”

And in 2013, Bowe again was selected to represent the Lions for the tour of Australia by Gatland.

He continues: “It wasn’t really announced that time, the forwards went off to do units, and the backs went off to do units, and I think it was Darren Cave, who was injured then, who came up to tell me I was in, he was watching it on his phone. One of the physios had passed it around, I think, saying that Rory [Best] didn’t make it.

“Rory not getting nod took away from it to be honest. I was devastated for him, because he was the one who was going to be in and I wasn’t. Then when it was the other way around, it was a very strange feeling, I felt so sorry for him.

“It was surreal. It’s a very difficult situation, it’s such a big occasion and there will be people who will miss out, and it’s going to be the same this time around.

“To find out the way you do, there’s no letter in the post, there’s no email to warn you. It is cruel. It’s like X Factor, you’re standing on stage waiting to hear. I suppose it is very cruel in a sense, but it adds to the whole drama of it.

“The best thing to do is to be training, that’s how it was for me the last two times. Sitting there watching it can’t be healthy for anyone.

“There’s going to be a lot of nerves coming up to this one, as it’s such an unknown – there are so many guys who could be in, and there could be a few wild cards too.”

Tommy Bowe celebrates Celebrating victory in the third Test against Australia in Sydney four years ago. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Bowe is hoping a few of those wild cards will be from Ireland and he name checks Iain Henderson and Peter O’Mahony as two players he’d love to see included.

“I looked at this the other day, and I think we’ll have a good representation,” he added.

“We could well have 10 plus. I do feel we have a good few players who could push for starting spots, and I also feel we have some real good leaders. It’s going to be such a difficult tour, there’ll be no let off between the midweek and weekend games.

“We have a lot of strong characters so that will help. And having players who were involved in beating New Zealand this year, will help too.

“I’d love to see someone like Iain Henderson or Peter O’Mahony get in, they’d be strong men but clever players too. Down there it’s going to take that. I’d love to see someone from the Ireland periphery too, someone who maybe didn’t start all the Six Nations games; we’ve any amount of them. I’m looking forward to the announcement.”

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