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Bowe sure he'll get back to top but understands Schmidt decision to make him wait

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 15/11/2016

Patience: Bowe knows time is needed to get back to his best
Patience: Bowe knows time is needed to get back to his best

Ulster's Tommy Bowe has admitted Ireland coach Joe Schmidt was right to leave him out of the squad for the Autumn Internationals. The 32-year-old is a veteran of 67 Tests for his country, and only the legendary Brian O'Driscoll has scored more tries in green, but is currently making his way back to his best after almost a full year out with injury.

Having damaged his knee during Ireland's World Cup quarter-final defeat to Argentina in October 2015, and had a first comeback attempt in April of this year last only 80 minutes, regaining match-sharpness was always going to be a laborious process.

He made his first Ulster appearance of the season as a substitute at the beginning of last month but acknowledged it will take him a while to hit previous heights.

"It's frustrating because, having been out for so long, you feel you just want to switch it on but I have been in the game long enough to know it's going to take a little bit of time," he said.

His most recent outing came in the famous black and white hoops of the Barbarians when they were in Belfast to take on Fiji on Friday and the Monaghan man was pleased to get another 80 minutes of match action.

"I need to keep going, get the minutes under the belt," Bowe added.

"I felt quite sharp. I maybe didn't get to stretch the legs too much but if one or two passes had gone to hand I would have been there or thereabouts.

"It's a case of just reading the game and being in the right place at the right time and those tries will come."

Having missed out on the Ireland squad that has already beaten New Zealand and Canada, and will round out the month with another crack at the All Blacks on Saturday before finishing with Australia, Bowe revealed he had been in contact with Schmidt and couldn't complain about the coach's decision.

"When he picked the squad I chatted to him and he was very clear," the two-time Lion acknowledged.

"I couldn't argue with him. I'd only played maybe one or two 80 minutes at that stage and it is not enough to be playing at the top level.

"He still considers me, it is just getting myself back in form.

"I know I'm good enough to get myself back up there but it is going to take time."

For now his efforts are focused on match fitness and Ulster's looming return to Guinness Pro12 action at the end of this month.

The province are in need of results after three league losses in succession and will meet Zebre at home on November 25 in an effort to arrest the slide.

Bowe, whose comeback took him to Shaw's Bridge for an 'A' game last month while Ulster were on the uneven surface of Bordeaux's Stade Chaban Delmas in the Champions Cup, has the understanding of his Director of Rugby Les Kiss too.

"I chatted to Les as well and they have said it's a case of getting as much time under my belt as I can," he said.

"It's going to take time to get that match sharpness back because it's been a long time out.

"For me to get another 80 minutes and play for a team like the Barbarians, not many Irish guys get that opportunity and I was delighted to get the nod for it," he said.

"It was a great experience and something I really enjoyed."

In keeping with the touring side's old traditions, Bowe took the field on Friday night in a pair of club socks, with the decision to don the Armagh red and black a difficult one for the winger, who also togged out for Queens' University before making a name for himself as a professional try-scorer.

"I knew it would be a difficult one to choose between but I just asked the old man and he said 'stick with Armagh, it's a good club and they have always been good for you'.

"Monaghan was where I played mini-rugby but my first senior game was with Armagh. I only had a couple of games with them after that.

"But I know a lot of the guys down there and I'd still go and watch them every now and again when I get the chance.

"I went to school there and it was Armagh I played for first when I left. I scored four tries against Donaghadee in my first senior game."

Ulster, and indeed Ireland, will hope it's not long before he's doing the same on an ever so slightly grander stage.

Belfast Telegraph

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