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Tommy Bowe gets the seal of approval from Habana

Ireland won’t win a Grand Slam again this year and their unbeaten run is a thing of memory. But the good news is, Tommy Bowe continues to make soar away progress as one of world rugby’s top wing threequarters.

Ulsterman Bowe has had a fabulous last 18 months. He scored crucial tries to help drag Ireland to that first Grand Slam in 61 years, then starred for the British & Irish Lions in South Africa last summer.

Bowe followed that up with some more cracking displays in the autumn internationals. Finally, two tries against England at Twickenham last Saturday proved Bowe continues to make stand-out appearances as one of the world’s greats.

And this week in faraway South Africa came more confirmation of the kind of impression Tommy Bowe is making in world rugby circles. Top Springbok flyer Bryan Habana, rated the most threatening wing in world rugby these days, paid handsome tribute to Bowe and what he called his “outstanding qualities”.

Habana, who is currently playing Super 14 rugby for his new South African franchise the Cape Stormers, said: “I played against Tommy three times last year. There is no doubt whatsoever, he is a fantastic player. Yet he is still only just 26 and clearly has a huge career ahead of him.

“If you are playing alongside the likes of Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy and Geordan Murphy, guys with so much experience, it must have been a big help to him. It was like me playing around guys like De Wet Barry and Percy Montgomery when I was a bit younger. So there’s definitely great people there around him.

“He has been a player who has shone from that last Test of the Grand Slam season against Wales in Cardiff last year. And he also shone against the Springboks on the Lions tour. He’s certainly put his hand up.

“I think Tommy will be a real threat in the northern hemisphere in the years to come. And like we saw on the Lions tour, he can do similar things on the hard fields in the southern hemisphere. He’s contributed a lot to Ireland so far, in the last year and a half. He’s grown immensely not only as a rugby player, but as a person off the field.

“He’s been able to achieve some great things as a wing. And I think as a wing the biggest contribution he can make is to keep on scoring tries. When you are doing that, and you’re getting it right, the contribution to your team becomes a lot bigger.”

What Habana also likes about Bowe is his appetite for work, his eagerness to go looking for the ball if it doesn’t come to him.

He said: “I think with defences being so good, you become a marked man if you stand on the wing all day. Because often the situation is, even when you do get the ball you’re going to have four or five defenders trying to stop you. That started happening when Jonah Lomu was getting to the end of his career.

“When the likes of Tana Umaga started his career, Doug Hewlett (the Munster wing) began his, it was starting to change. I think when they started their careers they really had to put their hand up. I also think what it has done is changed the way the game is played. Wings have to think a lot differently these days, their job is so much more complicated.

“You have definitely got to be looking for the ball and if you don’t, you will be left behind. There are going to be a lot of people who are going to gain fast in terms of their ranking, so you must make yourself busy as a player. Tommy certainly knows how to do that.”

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