Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Devastating Bowe sure of Test spot

Tommy Bowe admits his career has "really rocketed" as the British and Irish Lions prepare to launch him at world champions South Africa.

Less than two years after failing to make Ireland's World Cup squad, Bowe is in the form of his life.

He is a cast-iron certainty for the Lions' first Test team against the Springboks next Saturday, having scored four tries in three games and also proved a devastating midfield game-breaker.

Bowe's ability to rove off his wing and enhance the Lions' attacking armoury could not have been better illustrated by his starring role on a blustery afternoon beneath Table Mountain.

The 25-year-old claimed one touchdown and memorably broke three tackles to set up another for his probable Test strike-partner Ugo Monye.

While substitute James Hook's nerveless late long-range penalty clinched a 26-23 verdict for the Lions against Western Province, his fellow Osprey Bowe — more than anyone else — had set up the possibility of a fifth successive tour win.

"I am playing with confidence at the moment," he said.

"When I get the ball I am feeling happy to take defenders on and play my own game.

"I am enjoying my rugby. I've had a good season, I've got myself into a bit of form and I am enjoying myself playing in Wales.

"Things have really rocketed in the last year. To be in a position where I am hopefully in contention for the first Test is something I have always dreamed of.

"I can't take anything for granted. The (Test) team is going to be picked on Tuesday, and fingers crossed I've done enough to get myself in there."

If the Lions are to stun South Africa in Durban next weekend, they must win individual battles all over the pitch.

And there is hardly a more mouthwatering contest ahead than the one between Ireland Grand Slam winner Bowe and Springboks try machine Bryan Habana.

They have faced each other before — in an under-21 tournament in England — but nothing to remotely match Saturday's high-octane showdown.

"For me to be here seems very special," added Bowe. "It's the pinnacle of any rugby player's career, so if you didn't enjoy it there would be something wrong. I am playing with a smile on my face.

"We've been playing with a lot of different combinations, and it is a case of getting everything correct for Saturday.

"Coming over here we were going to be underdogs, and that's the way we want to be. I think if people write us off, they will get a shock."

Lions head coach Ian McGeechan will draw up the Test team following Tuesday's clash against a newly-formed Southern Kings side in Port Elizabeth.

McGeechan's main selection debates appear to concern the front five, notably props and lock, where Nathan Hines and Alun-Wyn Jones are battling to be chosen as captain Paul O'Connell's second-row partner.

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