Ireland and Lions winger Tommy Bowe showed no signs of rustiness as he came back from his three month injury lay off as he bagged a brace of tries in Ulster’s Pro12 bonus point victory over the Dragons at Ravenhill on Friday.
However, he admitted after getting a full first half in that he expected to miss this season’s Six Nations championship.
It was always likely to be an outside chance that Bowe would be called up to the Ireland extended squad ahead of the visit of Italy next week - and so it proved to be on Sunday night when the 33-man panel was named, and his name was not included.
For Bowe, it is a case of getting himself back to form for Ulster as they work towards maintaining a play-off place in the RaboDirect PRO12 and a Heineken Cup quarter-final tie at home against Saracens on April 5.
Bowe said: “For me personality just to get 40 minutes I knew I would need to have game time to get back into the Ireland set up.
“But I am pretty much resigned to the fact that I’m going to miss this one (Six Nations) but it was just great for me to get back onto the pitch and I was really hungry for it.
“The plan all along was just to give me a half I enjoyed it and it was great to back.
“I was nervous coming into the game as I had been out for a long time, I‘ve tried to come back and her it and it has been a long drawn out process, the medics were confident and I was confident.
“I did everything in training and it was just a case of getting myself back out on the pitch and seeing how it would go.”
Bowe’s two tries came of planned moves.
“The first one was definitely straight off the paddock and when you put those days training and something like that comes off it is great and hopefully we haven’t ruined that for the rest of the season,” he beamed.
Bowe butchered an early opportunity.
“I wasn’t expecting to get the ball of Darren because he is into his show and go at the minute,” joked Bowe, but added: “I was disappointed with that because I was through a hole and it was great hands by Cavey which he showed throughout the game.
“His (Cave) game has come on in the last couple of months he has really turned himself into a quality ball player which is prefect to play outside as a winger.”
“The last two games the boys haven’t been happy we haven’t played to the standard that we want to, in the first half we played with a smile on our faces.
“We took the game to the Dragons which is what we want to do going forward for the next couple of week.”
Bowe is not looking too far ahead as he tries to get himself back up to full match fitness, the IRFU reporting that he had ‘tightened up after tje game.’
“Unfortunately with this injury it’s just something that I’m going to have to take care of and be careful of for the rest of the season so I’m just going to have to stay on top of it.
“I’m going to have to step it up as I was blowing there after just 40 minutes, there is a lot more conditioning needs to be done and I haven’t played in three months so there is a lot more work to be done.”
“I haven’t heard anything from Ireland camp and the plan is I think to stay here in Ulster.
“We need to be firing for the next couple of games and not just produce one big one for Saracens.
“I felt a little bit tight towards the end of the first half there, it’s been a big step up in intensity for me, it’s going to take me a day or two to get over it but it feels great.
“I was flying and buzzing and would have loved to have stayed on for 80 minutes but the plan was always to play 40 minutes and the physios didn’t want to risk any damage which was the right decision.
“The most frustrating injury I’ve ever had. With my hand and my knee I knew the screws were in them and it was strong if not stronger than ever before.
“When you have a ligament tear you just have to give it time and many times I would try to get back it would set me backwards.
“I worked extremely hard and I have had to set a really tough rehab programme I’ve had to stick to over the last six weeks and luckily that seems to have worked.”