Tommy Bowe likely to miss Leicester match
The Irish and Lions winger is struggling to regain fitness for the final pool game
There was some impeccable timing from Munster’s Simon Zebo, Leinster’s Cian Healy and Ulster’s Rory Best in their returns from injury for the provinces over the weekend as Joe Schmidt names his first Six Nations Championship team today.
But Ireland and Lions’ winger Tommy Bowe is highly unlikely to be fit enough to play against Leicester in Ulster’s final pool match as they hope to make it six wins from six and earn a home quarter-final in Ravenhill. Bowe, who is certain to be selected by Schmidt, will have to impress at a later date.
It was hoped that the 27-year-old would have recovered from a torn groin muscle he sustained at the beginning of December. But coach, Mark Anscombe, ruled that out when he was asked about his right wing making a return in time for Welford Road.
“I’d be surprised,” said the coach. Ulster yesterday confirmed it was uinlikely.
The timing for left wing Craig Gilory was also unfortunate as he remains under the watchful eyes of Ulster’s medical team. Gilroy collided with Andrew Trimble in the second half of Friday’s match in Ravenhill as they chased a bonus point. He subsequently left the pitch dazed.
The Irish capped winger’s nose was broken in the accident, while it was also confirmed he also suffered a concussion. Last night Gilroy saw a specialist and he will now follow the normal return to play protocols for head injuries.
“Yeah, I think I broke his nose,” said Trimble cheerily after the match, not knowing his team-mate was concussed as well. Trimble played in his 58th consecutive Heineken Cup match against Montpellier, beating the record of former international outhalf and current boss in Ravenhill, David Humphreys.
Thighthead prop Declan Fitzpatrick also suffered concussion in the round five match and will follow similar medical protocols to Gilroy. All of that means John Afoa and winger Michael Allen should be wrapped in cotton wool this week to ensure there are no mishaps between now and the weekend.
The Kiwi, who scored his second Heineken Cup try in the win, leaves at the end of the season with Tom Court, which will prompt the province to have a hard look at what props are available.
Good news for Ulster is that Best emerged from his first match since the end of November with no ill effects. The Irish hooker yesterday had a scan on the arm he broke playing with Ireland against New Zealand in the final game of the November series. Although he returned earlier than expected, the scan showed he had suffered no reaction to playing against Montpellier.
Ulster travel to Leicester on Saturday for a 6pm kick-off in a winner takes all finale to the group phase of matches. There are just two points separating the clubs with Ulster on top of the pool with 22 points.
Paddy Jackson, who reacted well to the blitz defence Montpellier used to close down Ulster space, will make a return to the ground where he earned his first playing stripes in the competition.
“My first Heineken experience was there,” said the Ulster outhalf, who can also expect to be on Schmidt’s national radar. “I got five minutes off the bench. It’s one of those places you love to go and it’s games like this you want to play. ”