Tommy Bowe cannot wait to come roaring back for Ulster
Sidelined wing has played only one game in the last 11 months but says patience is crucial to his recovery
As Newport Gwent Dragons rolled into town for the PRO12 opener last week, Ulster's Tommy Bowe found himself back enduring one of his least favourite pastimes - watching his team-mates in action.
Having been out since last October - bar an 80-minute comeback against Zebre in April - with a knee injury originally sustained at the World Cup with Ireland, pre-season offered a brief respite from the feeling that he was missing out on the big occasion.
"I'm not a good spectator at all," he admitted at BT's 'Business of Sport' event at the Kingspan Stadium yesterday. "You want to be playing, that's just how it is. They keep you busy here, you do corporate duty, meet and greet the fans, which is all excellent, but you want to be one of the 23 out on the pitch.
"Training has never been my favourite part of it all. Going out and playing in front of the crowds here, getting the ball in my hands, that's the part I find exciting. That's what I enjoy, and that's what I'm missing at the minute, but at least I know it's not far away. That's what I'm focusing on."
Exactly when the Monaghan man will return remains unclear but he feels the end of his injury nightmare is in sight.
"I haven't pinpointed a time but I know I'm not far away," he said.
"At the moment, I feel as good as I've felt in a long time. The season is long though, it's not a case of getting myself back for a game or two and then having to sit back. I want to be in a position that when I play I know I can last the whole season and that's more important. It's the bigger picture at the moment."
When Bowe does return, he is looking forward to once again linking up with Ruan Pienaar, believing that a determination to see the departing Springbok's Ulster career end on a high will provide added motivation throughout the campaign.
"Ruan is embedded in the squad here," Bowe (below with Andrew Trimble and Jared Payne) said. "He's a very, very popular guy. Not just with the fans but with the team too. You could see against Dragons, it was an emotional one for him but he showed the quality that he can provide. Come the end of the year we'd love to give him an amazing send-off."
Back to his own place in the Ulster jersey and, while still determined to make the most of his time left on the field, the two-time Lions tourist has been devoting more and more time to considering what he plans to do after rugby.
"It's something you think a lot about," he acknowledged. "But I don't know exactly what that will be yet. I'm involved with the shoe and clothing company (XV Kings) that I really enjoy and it gives you a bit of an idea of the outside world and how that works.
"I want to keep myself involved in different bits and pieces like that while also training. This (rugby) is priority number one, it's my day job, but you always have to have an eye out. I've been involved in all sorts really through IRUPA. It's just finding an idea for what might interest you.
"I've a degree in construction engineering and I've a post-grad in business management so I don't see myself going back to the classroom as such. It's a case of getting experience and finding what interests me."
And what of a future in broadcasting after providing YouTube commentary along with team-mate Dan Tuohy for Ulster's final pre-season game against Northampton Saints?
Bowe believes Jim Neilly -an institution in the Kingspan Stadium commentary box - is safe in his seat.
"I think people enjoyed it for a bit of craic but it's hard work," he laughed. "I've a lot of respect for Jim. Having to be original every week with something new to talk about, I'd say it's very difficult."
Tommy Bowe was speaking at the BT Business of Sport event held at Kingspan Stadium, in association with Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce. As the official communications partner to Ulster Rugby, BT's event brought together over 100 of Northern Ireland's leading business people.