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Ulster's Tommy Bowe delighted to roar back

Two-try Tommy toasts his return as Paddy injury worry dismissed

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster's Paddy Jackson is expected to be fully fit for the crucial visit of Leinster next Saturday despite his second-half substitution in the 47-17 victory over Zebre at the weekend.

The hugely influential fly-half was in fine form for the province over the first 43 minutes of action in Parma before departing the scene and applying ice to his leg.

The knock was nothing more than a dead leg, however, with the 24-year-old set to resume play-making duties when Leo Cullen's men travel north at the end of this month.

Leinster are still the league leaders after last week's win over Edinburgh but Ulster will need a victory to keep their PRO12 play-off hopes in their own hands.

With only two rounds of action remaining, they are in fourth place and on course for an away semi-final should they overcome Leinster and Ospreys in the campaign's final weeks.

Director of Rugby Les Kiss was enthused by what he saw from both Jackson and Stuart Olding as the inside centre took over the reins at No.10 in the second-half.

"Paddy and Stuart were fantastic in the first-half and that set the platform," he said.

"They controlled things very well and brought others into the game with their penetrative running and their passing ability.

"Unfortunately, Paddy took a knock just above the knee but that gave us an opportunity to look at Stuart in the No.10 jersey in the second-half and I thought he did very well."

With Jackson's injury the only knock shipped by the squad in Parma, the game also marked the long-awaited return to action for Tommy Bowe, who crossed the whitewash twice in his first game for six months following knee ligament damage during the World Cup.

The Monaghan man, whose brace of tries extended his record tally in the PRO12, was thrilled to finally be back in the thick of things.

"It's been a long couple of months being out and I'm delighted to be back," he told the team's website.

"I was blowing. It was a tough match, a lot of running in it and very hot.

"It's brilliant to be back on the pitch, great to pick up a few tries and it's a good win for us going into two big games ahead."

Originally planning to appear off the bench, Bowe found himself in the starting line-up when Andrew Trimble was struck down with illness late in the week.

After staying on for the full 80 minutes, and scoring his second in the final moments, the former Osprey enjoyed being a part of a backline that accounted for seven tries in northern Italy.

"I wasn't sure whether I was expected to make the 80 minutes but I felt good throughout and it was nice to finish off with a try," he said.

"We maybe let them in for a few easy chances. We'll be happy with a few aspects but there's a little bit we need to look at."

After coming through unscathed, the two-time British and Irish Lion is already looking forward to the crucial inter-pro next time out.

"It's a huge game," he added. "Ulster (and) Leinster is always a huge game and I'm sure they are maybe still hurting a little from this time last year when we played them.

"It's going to be a tough game and we'll be fully up for it."

Kiss expressed a similar sentiment, believing that Leinster will be out to exact revenge for the 26-10 defeat just under 12 months ago that essentially ended the then-champions' hopes of making last season's play-offs.

Ireland's former defence coach said: "We've got two good preparation weeks building for what is a classic in our calendar.

"Leinster did well to get their win over Edinburgh. It's not going to be easy, we know that.

"At the Kingspan last year, we did a job on them and it's up to us to do the same again. There's no doubt it's going to be a massive atmosphere and our boys will be up for it."

Belfast Telegraph

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