RBS Six Nations: Tommy Bowe in late charge for Paris
Published 10/03/2014 | 09:30
Ulster's British and Irish Lions star Tommy Bowe is at Carton House today intent on convincing Ireland coach Joe Schmidt that he should include him against France in Saturday's potential championship decider.
Ireland are in pole position with a handsome for-against points differential over title rivals England and France.
But even winning in Paris for only the second time in 42 years might not be enough for Ireland if England manage to chalk up a 50-plus points victory against Italy in Rome.
In other words Ireland could be required to achieve victory by a decent margin.
Enter Bowe, the case for whom is that he has scored more tries than anyone in the history of the PRO12 and could therefore give Ireland exactly the sort of firepower they need for the must-win match at Stade de France.
The case against Bowe (left) is that his game-time since suffering a serious groin injury while playing for Ireland against the All Blacks on November 24 amounts to a 40-minute run for Ulster just over a week ago against Newport Gwent Dragons. He scored twice that night.
On the strength of that Ulster comeback, Schmidt included Bowe in Ireland's session last Thursday ahead of the Italian game.
And following Ireland's 46-7 weekend romp against Italy, Schmidt said: "I think he'll potentially train with us Monday, Tuesday and he'd come into the equation just as every man in the 34-man squad.
"We look at training as well as games and I put up a little bit of training footage - you know, 'This was some good stuff' and 'This was some bad stuff' - just to make sure that our baseline is maintained and we work really hard.
"I think the players are conscious that selections are based on training and on performance during games and one thing I would say is that the guys who are performing in games are training very, very hard.
"They are not trying to leave any door open at all and if that continues then they've got the jersey at the moment.
"I would have to say that we are open-minded regarding selection. We get together on a Tuesday after the first two days of training and make some decisions that we announce on the Thursday prior to training.
"Sometimes we turn up on the Thursday and make a few changes because we've had a think about it and we've looked back at a bit of footage. There's some incredibly narrow decisions that we make."
Schmidt also acknowledged the role of his squad's sports psychologist Enda McNulty in helping Ireland overcome the weight of history and superstition surrounding the French fixture.
Former Armagh gaelic football star McNulty has worked in Ireland's backroom set-up since the 2013 Six Nations, brought in by then-coach Declan Kidney.
Schmidt has retained McNulty's services since taking charge of Ireland last summer.
Now the head coach believes McNulty's "mind fitness" work can spur Ireland to just their second victory in France in 43 years, and their first Six Nations title since 2009.
"I'm not smart enough to be a sports psychologist, so I rely on other people doing the mind fitness," said Schmidt.
"And Enda McNulty has been a good addition over the last little while, from before my time, to help guys stay on track and make sure that they are just process-focused and just game-focused."
Ireland's last victory in Paris came in 2000 when Brian O'Driscoll announced himself to the world with a stunning hat-trick.
Schmidt insisted: "I'm not a big believer in superstition.
"I would describe it as the 'pensee de parasite', it's a parasite of thinking that is a distraction, and it erodes the logical mainstream thinking about what you actually need to deliver on the field. I don't think we can get too distracted by the history or by the results, or points differential.
"Regardless of what does happen we will be very much focused on trying to put in the best performance we can. To be honest we could go to Paris and finish third. But if we can win a Six Nations having gone away to England and France, it would be a bit special."