Tommy Bowe warms up for Ulster comeback
Fit-again wing Tommy Bowe believes he and his Ulster team-mates will be raring to go for the new season once they return from this week's warm weather training in Portugal.
Ulster, who open their PRO14 campaign against South African side the Cheetahs at Kingspan Stadium on September 1, have their first pre-season fixture against English powerhouse Wasps a week from tomorrow.
And with the majority of the squad currently training in sunnier conditions, Bowe, who has recovered from an ankle broken on Six Nations duty with Ireland, believes they are building well ahead of those fixtures.
"Guys push themselves to the absolute limit here and to go and get a bit of heat and sunshine really refreshes the body," said the 69-time Irish international.
"We probably train harder over here because the weather is very hot, you sweat more and breathing is more difficult.
"But the muscles seem to react very well to it, so it means we can push ourselves that bit harder and recover a bit easier.
"It gets us ready for the start of the new season and hopefully we will be firing by then."
With a new coaching set-up having been brought in under Director of Rugby Les Kiss, Bowe added that the additions are already making their opinions heard.
“Jono (Gibbes, head coach), Dwayne (Peel, assistant coach) and Aaron (Dundon, set-piece coach) have offered a fresh voice, a different opinion and they are really enthusing all the guys.
“They have new ideas and they have commanded a huge amount of respect from the players.
“Everyone seems to be really responding well to them and I’d be very hopeful that they would have a very positive impact on the squad over the next couple of years. But it’s still obviously early on, we’ve played no games yet, so we will have to see how it goes.”
While Ulster await confirmation of an additional out-half for next season, three new players are already in training and looking to replace the sizeable contributions of the departed Ruan Pienaar, Roger Wilson and Franco van der Merwe.
“We obviously have big Jean, ‘Big Red’ Deysel as we call him, he’s a big unit,” joked Bowe.
“Himself and Wiehahn (Herbst) have almost become inseparable already and he’s only been here a week or two. We haven’t seen much of Schalk (van der Merwe) yet and then John Cooney has come in as well.
“And there are also a lot of new young fellows coming through the ranks as well, which is always really good to see. For the older lads, like myself, it’s good have these young guys come in and bring real enthusiasm — you feed off that.
“There’s a good mix in the squad and we’re all pushing each other hard.”
Meanwhile, former Ulster wing Rory Scholes has agreed to a move to Connacht for the 2017/18 campaign after spending one season at Edinburgh.
On the move to the west of Ireland, Scholes said: “I am delighted to be joining Connacht ahead of the new season, particularly with an exciting new coaching team in place.
“I am looking forward to running out in the Sportsground and playing my part in what will hopefully be a successful season for the province.”
Assistant coach Nigel Carolan added that the Sportsground outfit were thrilled to secure the former Campbell College student.
“We are delighted to have Rory Scholes on board for the coming season,” he said. “Rory is an exciting player and he will add further quality to our squad for the season ahead.”