Irish International rugby star, Tommy Bowe, was in Derry on Wednesday to launch a new ‘One Stop Shop’ initiative for young drivers from Donnelly and Taggart and Abbey Insurance.
And it was a great chance to speak to the winger about Ulster’s magnificent yet troubled start to the season, their Heineken Cup game tonight, the looming Irish autumn international series and his famous winning try at Twickenham.
Irish international Tommy said: “The Donnelly’s are family friends so we make an effort to help them. They have good cars at good prices so I’m trying to help them get the word out. I think this could really help first time drivers get on the road without breaking the bank.”
Having rejoined Ulster at the start of this season, Tommy is part of an undefeated squad which sit atop the Rabodirect Pro12 league.
“Rugby is going great,” he said. “I’m personally delighted to be back in an Ulster jersey. It was exciting to run out at Ravenhill again and all the better to do so in front of a big crowd.”
Bowe said that the side is playing good rugby at the moment.
“Our away form wasn’t great last season but we have had two away games and two victories already this season. The real positive for us is the squad selection and rotation. We haven’t had the same fifteen start two consecutive games. That is great for Ulster, especially considering there has been no drop in performance levels.”
Ulster’s recent off-field woes have been well documented. The death of club mate Nevin Spence is already one of the defining moments in Ulster’s season.
“Well, when it comes to dealing with tragedy, people have two ways of handling it. They can retreat within themselves or they connect as a team. The side have tried to do the latter.
“There is no doubt that the last few games have been difficult for the players. Nevin was a popular guy in the changing room but we are trying to react to the situation in a positive manner.
“I speak to the Spence family and they want us to stay true to who Nevin was and the type of character he was, so hopefully we can do that.”
Ulster open their Heineken Cup campaign this evening with the visit of Castres. Bowe’s side are in Pool 4 with heavyweights Northampton and Glasgow also in the mix. How does Bowe rate Ulsters chances of going one better than last season and lifting the Heineken Cup?
“We have a great squad and there is real strength in depth there. Everyone wants to be picked for the Heineken Cup game.
“I know I’ll be in the squad but I’m only a few games back after injury so for me it is about getting consistency in my performances first, then worry about trophies. But the hunger is there within the squad. Certainly we fear no one.”
Though the “levels of excitement rise ahead of the Cup games,” according to Tommy, the squad have approached the fixture in the same fashion as a league game.
“The intensity picks up ahead of Heineken Cup fixtures, there’s no denying that. There was a full house against Connacht and we expect the same for Castres.
“Ulster are lucky in that we have a passionate support and hopefully we can give them something to cheer about.”
The big games are certainly approaching thick and fast for the winger.
Ireland play South Africa and Argentina in the autumn internationals next month. With the World Cup 2015 draw on December 3, world ranking points and the possibility of a higher seeding in that draw are the real prize.
“Everyone has the World Cup draw at the back of their mind. There is a massive carrot to aim for both for Ireland and for me to get back on the Ireland team. I’m only two games into my season so I haven’t played much rugby.
“Obviously I’d love to play well for Ulster and get involved in those internationals. It would be a big lift especially after the disappointment of the summer series.”
Finally I asked if Bowe is still dining out on that last-gasp winning try which denied England a 2010 Grand Slam at Twickenham?
“No, that is long gone,” he said ruefully, “especially after the St. Patrick’s Day defeat against England this year. But if we get off to a good start in the spring anything is possible in 2013.”