JOE chats to Tommy Bowe about the Lions, the new season and ‘comedy genius’ Paddy Jackson
We caught up with Tommy Bowe in Dublin earlier this week to chat about the Lions, Ireland, incriminating photos on Bondi Beach and why Paddy Jackson is a comic genius.
Tommy Bowe might have had a summer to remember but it must have been particularly satisfying for Ryle Nugent’s favourite Irish player when you consider what he had to go through before playing a key role in the Lions’ first series win in 16 years.
Having missed a large chunk of 2012 after undergoing a kidney operation, disaster struck Bowe once again at the tail end of last year when he suffered a pretty serious knee injury while running at frightening pace in a Heineken Cup clash with Northampton.
The Monaghan man returned for the end of the season and made enough of an impact to earn selection for the Lions Tour, where he was flying it in Australia until a broken bone in his hand against the Queensland Reds looked set to end his tour for good.
After a Lazarus-like recovery, he returned to play a major part in the second and third tests as the Lions claimed their first series win since 1997 but ahead of the new season, a wrist injury has affected his pre-season and we won’t see him back in an Ulster jersey for another month at least.
That hasn’t dampened Tommy’s enthusiasm for the season ahead and he was in great form when we caught up with him in Dublin earlier this week and chatted about his Lions experience, THAT photo on Bondi beach, looking forward to playing under Joe Schmidt and why Paddy Jackson is a comic genius.
JOE: Tommy you’re here on behalf of Subway to promote a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle and that’s obviously particularly important during pre-season. How has it gone for you this season and is it harder to keep up with the young fellas every year?
Tommy Bowe: Yeah, definitely, pre-season was never my favourite time of year anyway, pre-season is the dread and has always been the dread to me so it is getting tougher but for the last two pre-seasons I’ve been nursing injuries.
Last season I had an operation on my kidney which put me out for about six months which was difficult and this time it’s my wrist and unfortunately I can’t catch or pass the ball so it’s just a case of going out running plenty of lengths of the pitch, which isn’t much fun.
Without a doubt, the young fellas coming through add exuberance, they’re so up for it and ready to go and that’s great. I enjoy training with them and I enjoy going to the gym with them, there’s plenty of craic but also plenty of hard work and they spur you on a bit.
JOE: How is the injury coming along, have you any date set for when you expect to be back in action?
TB: I wasn’t expecting to be back for a while anyway because we came back late off the Lions so I had planned to be back for around week four of the Rabo (end of September) and I’m still hoping to be back fit and ready to go for that.
JOE: It’s a different injury you have now to the one you picked up during the Lions Tour, but you must have suffered a wide range of emotions during the Tour having initially feared your tour was over before coming back to play a big part in the second and third test and winning the series?
TB: It was a real rollercoaster. First of all there was the fight to get back fit again to be available for selection for the Lions after the knee injury at Christmas time, then to work to get back to full fitness and play a couple of games to get selected to go on tour.
I felt I was really getting into my stride and then to break a bone in my hand and to be almost told on the side of pitch that my tour was over was really difficult. But thanks to a surgeon who’s been there and done that and done it all before, he put the idea out there that I could get myself back before the end of the tour.
The medical team did some great work, they bust their ass and I bust my ass to get back for second test and I was well ahead of schedule and could almost have played in the first test, but they felt it was best to give it that third week.
JOE: Speaking of tour highlights, that picture of you surrounded by a bevy of women on Bondi Beach must have been up there. We imagine you never heard the end of it?
TB: I got a serious amount of slagging over it but only for the fact that the rest of the team were there as well and they somehow managed to get out of it. But yeah, that photo was something I got a serious amount of abuse over!
Plenty of strings to Tommy's Bowe
JOE: From an Irish point of view, the build-up to the final test was overshadowed because of the controversial omission of Brian O’Driscoll from the squad. What was the reaction like within the squad itself and was it hard to remove yourself from the big reaction at home?
TB: You know, when you’re away over there you’re kept very much in a bubble, especially when it came to test matches because there was such a big crowd of people from home that had come over. I think there were nearly 50,000 Lions fans there so we were very much kept in our hotel and didn’t really know much about the reaction apart from on social media.
Obviously we knew there was a bit of furore about Drico being left out but when the team was announced and once you’re in the 23 there’s not much thought about it because there was a job at hand, this is the team and we’ve got to get on with it.
We were aware that it was big news back home and it was obviously big news within the squad as well but you can’t dwell on it, you have to get your head on the match and that’s what we did.
JOE: O’Driscoll’s own reaction must have helped quell the fuss…
TB: It did and that just showed the professionalism that he has. An upset like that would hit anybody, never mind Drico who had never been dropped from a team in his life. It was a bad time for it to happen to him but he turned up next day at training and was fully involved and was doing his best to help the team to win.
JOE: O’Driscoll, of course, will be playing for Ireland for at least another year under his old Leinster boss Joe Schmidt. From your own experiences of playing against teams managed by Schmidt, are you excited about playing for him and what do you expect him to bring to the party?
TB: Yeah, I’m very excited about it. I have only heard what the lads from Leinster have had to say about him, obviously we’ve all seen how successful Leinster have been in the last few years but just to hear the positive comments from the lads in the Leinster camp, they all speak so highly him.
Tommy leads the celebrations in the Lions dressing room after the third test
He’s a real rugby encyclopaedia, he knows the game inside out, he has so many ideas and he understands how he wants his teams to play; it’s exciting for the backs because he likes to see boys get the ball in hand. He’s had meetings with the players already that I haven’t been at because I’m injured but I heard they went down well.
JOE: It must be an exciting time at provincial level as well with Ravenhill being upgraded and on the back of performances in both the Rabo and the Heineken Cup in recent years.
TB: Of course, I think it was Rory Best who said that it was the first year with Ulster where we haven’t lost a coach or any players from the year before and we’ve gained a few young fellas so it’s really exciting for Ulster. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to live up to expectation; there are a lot of young fellas coming through but there’s also a lot of experience in the team so we’ve a perfect blend.
We’ve been in two finals in the last two years and we lost both of them to Leinster and that was tough but we want to win trophies, that’s a big goal for us and that’s what we’ll be looking to do.
JOE: Because of your age profile and your experience at club and international level, do you see yourself as a leader in the Ulster squad?
TB: This is it, from my point of view I’ve won the league three times (with the Ospreys) but I’ve never been successful in the Heineken Cup and that’s a big goal for me, it’s a real ambition of mine and I really want to be part of a winning team in the Heineken Cup. To see the likes of Munster and Leinster doing it in the past, it’s there for the taking but you have to be on the ball.
That’s the thing with these young fellas coming through, you have to lead and show them that they have to keep expectations high, that they can’t go into comfort zone; they have to push the boundaries.
JOE: Looking ahead to the Heineken Cup, it was an all-French final last year, do you see the French teams being the biggest threat in the Heineken Cup this season?
TB: The French teams are very strong, the likes of Clermont, Toulon, Racing, all of these teams with serious cash behind them. On their day though they’re definitely very beatable, Munster pushed Clermont very hard in the semi-final last season and Leinster in the past have taken them on and beaten them so they’re definitely they’re for the taking.
JOE: Because of your injury you missed out on what seemed to be a very enjoyable Ulster team-building exercise during pre-season…
TB: Yeah, the flee fly sounded like great craic, they all knew they were going to Donegal but they put their bags on the bus and the next thing the doors closed and the bus took off with their bags. So they went into the team room and were all told to split into groups and were then given pieces of paper with different tasks on it.
It looked like a great day out and it looked like some craic, some of the pictures were hilarious but the one with the lads dressed in drag trying to hitch a lift on the motorway was probably the best.
— Roger Wilson (@RogerWilson8) July 30, 2013
JOE: Lastly Tommy, we’ve seen what Paddy Jackson and Simon Zebo are capable of musically, or at least from a lip-syncing perspective, in the last couple of months. Are you going to have to up your game from ‘Black Velvet Band’ (see below) in the future?
TB: I tell you what, especially with Paddy Jackson, he’s a comedy genius in fairness to him. He comes up with these videos all the time of him doing impersonations or singing and he’s incredible really.
Maybe he’ll ask me to get involved with him some day but I think he’s set the bar a little too high for me now.
Tommy Bowe was helping to promote the Low Fat Range of SUBWAY® Subs, flatbreads and salads, which contain less than 3g of fat per 100g. All 6-inch Subs and flatbreads contain one of the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day when customers choose the standard salad items. The range of breads used to make our Subs also has added vitamin D and calcium. The 9-Grain Wheat Bread is also high in fibre, containing at least 6g of fibre per 100g.