Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby World Cup

We can shoulder World Cup expectation: Bowe

By Jonathan Bradley

From the elation of beating Australia in the pool stages, to the despair of a quarter-final defeat.

Tommy Bowe saw two vastly contrasting sides to the World Cup four years ago in New Zealand but the winger feels that he and several of his now-senior teammates will be better for the experience this time around.

In 2011 Declan Kidney's men won their pool but failed to become the first Irish side to reach the last four thanks to a bitterly disappointing loss to Wales in the quarter-finals.

Back then the likes of Bowe, Johnny Sexton, Connor Murray, Jamie Heaslip, Cian Healy and Rob Kearney were all gaining their first taste of the competition.

As he prepares for this year's tournament, the 30-year-old feels that familiarity with the occasion could prove to be a significant advantage.

He said: "The World Cup in New Zealand was incredible.

"After we beat Australia it just seemed everybody in New Zealand was cheering for us.

"We had convoys of people following us everywhere and the support was amazing.

"It is a bit of an eye opener, having seen that and being a part of it.

"A lot of the senior players will know what to expect and that can only be a positive for us."

Knowledge of what it is to play for the Webb Ellis trophy is not the only change to the squad's mindset ahead of the short trip across the Irish Sea however.

The 2007 tournament saw the Ireland of Eddie O'Sullivan travel to France amid great expectation and ultimately misplaced fanfare.

However the success of Joe Schmidt's side during the Kiwi's two-year tenure means belief has never been higher.

Having won back-to-back Six Nations titles for the first time since 1949, Bowe expects the side to embrace the expectancy emanating from both home and abroad.

He said: "I think in years gone by Ireland have enjoyed being the underdogs.

"But with the players now in the squad and the coaching staff, we have won back to back Six Nations so we can shoulder the expectation that certainly the Irish public have for us.

"Everybody in Ireland wants us to be out there winning things and that comes with being successful.

"That expectation is great, it drives us forward as a team but for us to hold it together the whole way through is something that we have been building on since that All Blacks game two autumns ago where we let it slip in the last couple of minutes.

"That was a real shock for the team and a real learning curve for us.

"We have learned a lot of things since and hopefully when it comes to the crunch matches like it has in the last two Six Nations we can be strong and get the win.

"There are a lot of players in the squad that have played for Leinster and Munster who have won trophies in the last couple of years and are used to shouldering a bit of responsibility and expectancy so there are players that are used to it and probably thrive on it.

"You have seen the way we have played in the last two Six Nations where we have that confidence.

"But we know that one slip, one dropped ball, or one missed tackle can mean a completely different result."

That same exacting attitude ensures that nobody in camp can rest on their laurels, lest of all Bowe and his fellow wings.

While the two-time Lions tourist is a virtual guarantee for the squad, with ten other back-three players in the extended training panel alone, the battle for a jersey is perhaps more heated than any other area of the field.

Especially ahead of four warm-up games beginning with a trip to Wales next Saturday.

"It's a 45-man squad (at present) and there is huge competition for places," said Bowe.

"Everybody knows there is a huge competition ahead, and the expectations we have, but it is very much a case of getting ourselves through the pre-season.

"As well as getting ourselves into the best shape possible going into the four matches that will decide who gets on that plane and who doesn't."

With less than a week to go until that series begins, the wait to see who forces their way into the travelling party for a shot at playing in the World Cup is almost over.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph