It was worth the wait as Tommy Bowe scored two tries in his first game for Ulster in four years as they beat Cardiff at the Arms Park 48-19.
It was Bowe’s first game of rugby since March after undergoing a kidney operation but all the sharpness and predatory instincts were are still there.
“It was very exciting for me last week, it has been a difficult couple of weeks for the team and nobody really knew how we were going to be affected or perform against Cardiff but I think the performance was very fitting for the occasion,” said Bowe.
“I was so impressed coming back into the side with the clinical edge we had, as a team we played so good rugby and I have memories of playing against Cardiff with the Ospreys as it was a local derby, but I remember going over with Ulster and always finding it a very difficult place to go, the Ulster performance was very encouraging and for me to get a bit of ball and score a couple of tries was nice but personally it was just nice to get back onto the pitch.”
Bowe won two league titles with the Ospreys and admits he has returned to find Ulster in a healthier state that when he left for Swansea.
“From the outside whenever I was coming back from Ulster I was very excited about coming back to my home province and getting back to Belfast but the thing I enjoyed about going to the Ospreys was that I had to fit for my place.”
“I felt there was a key squad with key players at the Ospreys and for me to get my place I was going to have to work my ass off and that is now something Ulster have.”
“You have Craig Gilroy, Andrew Trimble, Michael Allen and loads of young fellows coming through at the minute and that what excites me, I have to prove myself I’m just not coming in and walking onto the team I have to fight for my position.”
“I think that’s the case around the park there are very few positions where there isn’t someone biting at your heels and that has to be an exciting and positive thing for Ulster.”
In spite of being a British Lion and amassing 49 Irish caps Bowe knows if he doesn’t perform in the white shirt he will be dropped.
“I have played since March and I felt rusty in the match last weekend and it is going to be a couple of games before I get back to match fitness, despite having 49 caps when you’re out on the training pitch and somebody is running rings round you it’s easy to worry about it and you know you have to up your game, I’m not the you spring chicken who could do all that years ago.”
They may have only played once together but Bowe is very excited about the prospect of teaming up with full back Jared Payne.
“Jared has been very exciting for me and I’ve been very impressed with him on the pitch, he just has a glide about him which takes him outside people and he can make breaks, he is a very intelligent player and is always speaking up in training and says exactly what he expects,” that is another thing that makes the players raise their standards and I’m very excited to be playing with him this season.”
Bowe made his Ulster debut against Connacht in April 2004 and scored a try, in those days the men from the west were very much the poor relation to the other three provinces but not anymore.
“I was really impressed with Connacht against Leinster, I thought they were outstanding, they played some great rugby and scored some good tries, they kicked a lot of ball and Dan Parks found the corners and made it very difficult for the Leinster back three.”
“That will be something I’ll be expecting, I’ve played against Parks a lot of times and he has made a fool out of me plenty of times too, It’s going to be a difficult match for us and it is going to be bragging rights for the provinces after Connacht being Leinster and us beating Munster a couple of weeks ago.”