British & Irish Lions
Bowe excited by Boks contest
June 14, 2009

British & Irish Lions wing Tommy Bowe is playing the best rugby of his career and the Ospreys' paceman is now a certainty to start the first Test on Saturday against South Africa in Durban. Bowe failed to make the Ireland World Cup squad in 2007 but he is all but inked-in for the Test match in six days time.

Bowe has impressed fans and pundits alike with his devastating runs coming inside off the wing which helped him score arguably the best try of the tour yesterday against Western Province. He also beat three tackles to set up Ugo Monye to score at Newlands and the two speedsters could potentially be paired up to take on the Springboks in Durban.

Despite James Hook's match-winning late kick, it was Bowe's clinical performance in the first-half which helped the Lions maintain their five-match winning run. Bowe scored the Lions' first try of the tour and has amassed four tries from three matches in South Africa and is delighted with the way he is playing.

"I am playing with confidence at the moment," he said. "When I get the ball I am feeling happy to take defenders on and play my own game. I am enjoying my rugby. I've had a good season, I've got myself into a bit of form and I am enjoying myself playing in Wales.

"Things have really rocketed in the last year. To be in a position where I am hopefully in contention for the first Test is something I have always dreamed of. I can't take anything for granted. The (Test) team is going to be picked on Tuesday, and fingers crossed I've done enough to get myself in there."

If Bowe is selected for next week's titanic clash, he will be up against the formidable try-scoring machine, Bryan Habana. The two have faced each other once before in an under-21 tournament in England but it is a mouth-watering prospect seeing the pair face-off in what could potentially be an epic contest.

"For me to be here seems very special," added Bowe. "It's the pinnacle of any rugby player's career, so if you didn't enjoy it there would be something wrong. I am playing with a smile on my face. We've been playing with a lot of different combinations, and it is a case of getting everything correct for Saturday.

"Coming over here we were going to be underdogs, and that's the way we want to be. I think if people write us off, they will get a shock."

The main concerns over selection are based around the pack, with head coach Ian Mcgeechan planning to name the squad for the showdown in Durban after the game against newly-formed Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday.

Nathan Hines and Alun-Wyn Jones are fighting to be captain Paul O'Connell's lock partner but Bowe seems to think fellow Osprey Hook has a chance of getting the fly-half position off Stephen Jones.

"I see him (Hook) kicking kicks for the Ospreys all the time," said Bowe. "But to come off the bench and have the nerve to slot one from so far out, having dropped short with one a couple of minutes before that just shows the character of the man."

Andy Powell looks set to make the squad after his best performance of the tour where he dominated the back-row battle despite playing the game with a fractured bone in his hand.

"I have got a little bit of a fracture there," said Powell. "It's a bit painful, but these things happen in professional sport. You just want to get into that red jersey and forget about it at the end of the day."

The Lions were 18-9 ahead after tries from Bowe and Monye but Western Province's fly-half Willem de Waal kept them in the game with his kicking. Martyn Williams added a third for the Lions before Joe Pietersen's try levelled the game at 23-23. Hook missed one from distance late on but redeemed himself moments later to kick the winner in difficult conditions to give the Lions their fifth win.

"We always knew Western Province would probably be the strongest team we'd faced so far," said McGeechan. "Maybe we tried to play a bit too much rugby at times. It was blustery with a wet ball, which meant there was always going to be a high error count. You can't underestimate the conditions, or the opposition, who were really intent on making it difficult.

"We could have had a bit more patience with our kicking game, but the attitude of the players and focus on the field when it is coming down to the wire shows how much winning means to us. But we know next weekend is going to be a different level again. There are going to be some tough selection calls. We've got to where we are now, and we have got one game left before the first Test match."


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