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From Cardiff heartache to the presenter's chair, Bowe relishing new World Cup role

‘It’s going to be mad and intense but it’s presenting a World Cup. It’s a bit of a dream.’

A LOT can happen, and change, in a World Cup cycle. As Tommy Bowe was stretchered off at Cardiff’s Millenium Stadium four years ago, he could hardly have envisaged where he would be at the start of the 2019 tournament.

Bowe’s 2015 World Cup quarter-final lasted just 20 minutes before he suffered a serious knee injury and that infamous afternoon for Irish rugby would also mark the beginning of the end for the former winger in green.

tommy-bowe-is-consoled-by-martin-landajo-after-going-off-injured Bowe's quarter-final experience four years ago was a forgettable one. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

He would go on to add two more Test caps to his career tally during the 2017 Six Nations but, by that stage, Bowe’s attention had already turned to what was next, and his ambition and desire to move into television post-rugby ultimately opened this next chapter.

It started off with a role on RTÉ’s Getaways series during his final season with Ulster but, in the background, Bowe was busily readying himself for the next opportunity and he opened doors for himself when the time eventually came to hang up his boots.

After presenting eir Sport’s Guinness Pro14 coverage last season, Bowe will again front the broadcaster’s exclusive Irish coverage of all 48 games from the upcoming World Cup, starting with next Friday’s opening clash between Japan and Russia.

It will be a huge undertaking for Bowe and the eir Sport team, not least because of the intensity of a seven-week tournament but also the timing of the games means that there will be plenty of early starts for the presenter, his panel and the whole production crew.

From starting on the wing for Ireland four years ago, to being the face of eir Sport’s coverage this time around, it has been quite a career change for the 35-year-old but he has taken it all in his stride.

“It’s completely different. I don’t know what it’s going to be like,” he tells The42.

“I’m doing 38 games, so I’m trying to do as much prep as I can. I’ve looked at the last eight to 10 weeks as my pre-season. I’m trying to do as much prep as I can and read up about players, about teams and about pronunciations of names.

“I’ve been in pre-season for a World Cup and you’re worried about avoiding injuries or falling out of form, so thankfully that hasn’t been the case this time around. But at the same time, I haven’t done a live show since the end of the Pro14, so it’s going to be a real jump back into it again.

“But it’s a World Cup. Ireland are going into it as the number one team in the world. To think four years ago I came off injured in that match against Argentina to be now doing this, I’m delighted and mad excited.”

With pool games starting as early as 5.45am Irish time, Bowe will be up and in studio at 4am to begin preparations for a long morning on air, and it means he will move down to Dublin for the duration of the World Cup.

Having been thrown in at the deep end last season, the Monaghan native has at least now got a year’s worth of experience of live television in the bank, even if it meant learning on his feet.

Eir Sport have added the likes of Jerry Flannery, Mike Phillips, Gordon D’Arcy, Louise Galvin, James Lowe and Scott Fardy to their panel for the tournament, as they go head-to-head with RTÉ — who will also show Ireland’s games — in the World Cup ratings battle.

tommy-bowe Bowe at today's eir Sport launch in Abbotstown. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Since retiring, Bowe has completed a diploma in journalism and hopes last season stands to him when eir Sport go live on Friday week. 

“Over the last number of years, I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to do and television was something that always interested me,” he explains.

“I wanted to be the person who was asking the questions, rather than answering them. I was never an out-half who was too bothered about the intricacies and the analytical side of things. I was the guy who was standing out on the wing asking for the ball to score. I was always the one asking the questions: why are we doing that and why are we doing this? And that has sort of translated into this role again, which I really enjoy.

Four years ago, I never thought I’d be presenting the Irish television coverage of the World Cup. I definitely wouldn’t have dreamt I’d be doing that but I’m so excited about it.

“I’ve got the year done with the Pro14 and got some experience while I was still playing. I used three of my four weeks holidays from Ulster to do the holiday programme, just to get used to writing up a paragraph about some cathedral at the top of a hill in the south of France and talk to the camera about it.

“I’ve grown so much more as the season went on and felt so much more comfortable towards the end of it. It really is about how comfortable you are and then that translates into looking more relaxed on camera. I’m trying to not get too uptight. Try to be relaxed, and keep the show going.

I feel I’m in a good place. It’s about doing as much prep as you can so that when you get into that seat, you’re opening it up to people around Ireland, that they enjoy it. Certainly, with the stuff we have planned for the shows and some of the people we have coming in, it will be fresh and lively. 

“My job is to bring the good stuff out of the guys in the seats opposite me and that’s something I got a lot more comfortable doing last season.”

Bowe played in two World Cups as a player and while nothing will match that experience, he feels being on the other side of the camera and being part of the nation’s journey is the next best thing.

“It’s going to be mad and intense but it’s presenting a World Cup,” he adds. “It’s a bit of a dream.

“And because it’s all new for me, I get such an adrenaline rush out of it. I’ll never get the adrenaline rush of running out against Australia in a World Cup again, but when you’re standing looking down the lens of a camera and this is the first show of the tournament, there will be pressure. But I think I’ll relish it.”

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Ryan Bailey

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