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Bowe desperate not to be Lions' forgotten man

By Jonathan Bradley

With anticipation surrounding this year's British and Irish Lions tour to Australia reaching fever-pitch, those with aspirations to be named in Warren Gatland's squad at the end of April will be hoping to use this weekend's concluding round of Six Nations fixtures as a final audition to stake their claim.

However, far away from the games taking place in Rome, Paris and Cardiff, Tommy Bowe's battle to earn a trip Down Under remains in Belfast as the Ulster flyer continues to battle back from the serious knee injury suffered in the dying minutes of December's Heineken Cup clash with Northampton.

Bowe sustained considerable damage to the lateral ligament in his right knee that subsequently required surgery, but he is optimistic that he will have regained fitness in time to prove he is capable of making an impact against the Wallabies.

The 29-year-old wing said: "It's a huge incentive obviously when you're trying to get fit to have things like the Lions to aim for.

"To be picked for the squad really would be something I would adore and it would be a dream come true for me."

"I'm twelve weeks after the operation now and I'm back on the pitch doing a bit of running so it's a case of building up strength and trying to get a bit of speed back but I'm feeling very positive about it at the minute."

"It's been a very difficult time to be injured with the Six Nations going on but unfortunately it's a part of sport so it's just something that you have to accept and get on with."

With due deference to those also competing for the wing positions, the Monaghan man adds: "But the Lions is something that you have to be picked for and given that I haven't been playing recently I need to get out on the pitch first to prove myself."

His modesty aside, a fully-fit and firing Bowe would seem almost assured of a place in the test side, let alone the touring party, and Gatland should need few reminders of his credentials after his performances on tour to South Africa four years ago.

Of course, with a pivotal run of games approaching for his province, Ulster's finisher-in-chief has more than just a potential Lions spot to aim for, but unfortunately it appears as if next month's huge Heineken Cup quarter-final against Saracens will arrive just too quickly.

He said: "I think I would be doing very, very well to make the Saracens game, it's looking fairly unlikely at the minute, so it will probably be a case of trying to get myself back as soon as possible after that game."

Tommy Bowe was speaking at the launch of the 2013 Carrick Sevens rugby tournament. The event, due to take place between the 3rd and 5th of May, was first held in 1973 and continues to attract teams from throughout Ireland, England, Scotland and as far afield as Fiji.

The competition will once again help raise funds for The Wooden Spoon society, a charity supported by rugby legend Willie John McBride that helps those with severe learning difficulties.

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