Former Ulster and Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris has said that people would be foolish to write off Ulster winger Tommy Bowe given his recent axing from Joe Schmidt’s Ireland squad last week.
Bowe, 32, was not named in Ireland’s original 34-man squad for the upcoming November internationals with New Zealand, Australia and Canada later this month, but his former Ulster and Ireland teammate Stephen Ferris insists that the Monaghan native still has a lot left to offer despite sitting out the large majority of last season with a knee injury.
“There is plenty of mileage left in that big man,” Ferris told reporters in Dublin when asked if Bowe still had much left to offer.
“I think Tommy, right now, believes that he can play for the Lions next year. That’s the attitude and mindset you’ve got to have. He believes in himself. He just needs a run of games.
“He was out for six months, came back for one game and was back in for another operation and out for another five months.
“When I was playing, I was out for 14-15 months. When I came back, I knew I wasn’t the same player at all. And I knew it was coming to an end in two or three weeks time.
“I believe Tommy doesn’t feel like that. He just needs a bit of game time, more training sessions, more mileage, more reps.”
Bowe has been a mainstay in the Irish team for the better part of the last decade but made a number of uncharacteristic handling errors in his second start against Munster last Friday at the Kingspan Stadium.
The Ulster winger had an evening to forget in Ravenhill but Ferris insists that his confidence will recover with the more touches and game time he receives.
“His confidence, I’m sure, isn’t great after the weekend, dropping the ball on the touchline,” added Ferris.
“He wasn’t going to score anyway. The cover was coming. He just needs to get the ball in his hands and get a bit of confidence.
“He’s a great player, somebody who people would be foolish to write off.”
While Ferris maintains his faith in Bowe and his ability to bounce back, he’s also very much aware of the outstanding collection of outside backs that Ulster possess up north.
With Charles Piutau, Louis Ludik, Jared Payne, Craig Gilroy, Tommy Bowe, Andrew Trimble, Rob Lyttle and Jacob Stockdale all in their ranks, Ulster have one of the strongest and most fearsome three-quarter lines in all of Europe, and it’s that type of depth that Ferris feels will not only benefit the province, but will also provide the type of competition that will push his former teammates Bowe and Trimble as they enter the twilight stages of their careers.
“People kind of questioned why we were bringing in Charles because we had so many outstanding players with the likes of Tommy and Andrew Trimble, Craig Gilroy, Luke Marshall, Stuart Olding, Jared Payne, all these guys, you could just rhyme them off, but with guys away on international duty you can pick up a few injuries and you need a big squad,” Ferris added.
“I ask myself the question how can Rob Lyttle run through two guys and the forwards can’t run through two guys and Rob Lyttle is half the size.
“He’s just very explosive, very quick off the mark. I don’t think his top end speed does massive numbers but he seems to be at the right place at the right time. That’s always a good sign.
“I think he’s got a good head on his shoulders. I think [Jacob] Stockdale as well went really well in the U-20s championships. I know they got a bit of a hiding in the final by England but when they’ve been given opportunities they’ve took them.
“They’re putting massive pressure on the likes of Tommy Bowe, who is an international capped winger, made the Lions on two tours.
“Andrew Trimble as well, he’s now captain of the team, there’s a lot of pressure been put on those two guys but I think it will bring the best out of both of them.
“You need a big squad and the likes of Rob Lyttle and Stockdale I can see playing a lot more games over the course of the season.”
With Craig GIlroy, Luke Marshall, Andrew Trimble and Jared Payne all selected as part of the Ireland squad that will face New Zealand this weekend, Lyttle has subsequently been moved into the Ulster starting XV to take on Edinburgh on Friday evening with Stockdale also moving onto the bench.
All Black Charles Piutau and former Ireland International Stephen Ferris were in The Helix Theatre in Dublin on Wednesday to officially launch the historic ‘Rugby Weekend’ event in Chicago, presented by AIG Insurance. Ireland play the All Blacks this Saturday in Soldier Field and The Maori All Blacks face the USA Eagles on Friday.
Jack O’Toole, Pundit Arena
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