Bowe going back to his roots


Rugby:Ireland winger Tommy Bowe will leave the Ospreys at the end of the season and return to his native Ulster, it was confirmed this afternoon. Bowe had been linked with a move to Munster and had also attracted interest from a number of French clubs but Ulster have, as expected, won the race for his signature.

Bowe, who has been released from his current contract which still had a year to run with the Ospreys, has put pen to paper on a three-year deal to return to Ravenhill. Bowe’s career went from strength-to-strength after his move to Wales in 2008 and the 28-year-old admitted today it was not without a touch of regret that he was leaving the region.

“Obviously, I have mixed emotions,” he said. “I'm sad to be leaving a club and a region that I have been proud to call my home for the last three years and that has improved me immeasurably both as a rugby player and as a person. I am indebted to the staff, coaches, management, team mates and fans of the Ospreys, for welcoming me so warmly and making my time here so special.

"That said, I am also delighted to be returning to Ulster, the province I grew up wanting to play for and where my family live. David Humphreys was a mentor of mine in my early playing days and we have remained friends during my time at the Ospreys.

“His vision for Ulster is impressive, with Ulster born players at the core of this vision. I hope to repay the IRFU and Ulster's faith in me by contributing to a team that is already delivering. The vibe at Ulster is undeniably positive. I've been training and playing with some of the Ulster boys during the Six Nations and there is a real energy and sense of anticipation as to what lies ahead for this Ulster team".

This evening, Ospreys chief operations officer Andrew said: "He has never been anything less than a great servant to the Ospreys and we are sorry to see him leave, but the reality is that with the ever increasing number of international fixtures on the rugby calendar it makes little sense for us as a business to invest heavily in marquee non-Welsh qualified players who will be unavailable to us for large percentages of the season, particularly in the current economic climate.

“Tommy is a proud Irishman who wants to represent his country to the best of his ability, which means attending all IRFU commercial and rugby events throughout the season. With this in mind, all parties are in total agreement that the best place for him to be playing his rugby is at home in Ireland hence us coming to this joint agreement."

Having broken into the Ulster team at the end of the 2003-04 season, scoring on his debut against Connacht, Bowe spent four seasons with his native province before joining the Ospreys after missing out on Eddie Sullivan’s squad for the 2007 World Cup.

During a prolific time in Swansea, Bowe undoubtedly became a better player and played a leading role in Ireland’s 2009 Grand Slam success before featuring prominently for the British and Lions throughout the test series in South Africa, playing at outside centre in the third test.

The top scorer in the current Six Nations after another brace against France last weekend, Bowe’s immediate focus will be on Scotland this weekend as the Irish squad got back down to business at Carton House.

After losing Paul O’Connell and Conor Murray for the rest of the campaign yesterday, Ireland coach Declan Kidney also has injury concerns over Seán O’Brien, Keith Earls and Donncha O’Callaghan. All three missed training today – indeed they might not train again until Friday – but team manager Michael Kearney insisted all three would be available for selection when Kidney names his side tomorrow lunchtime.

O’Callaghan jarred his ankle against France on Sunday, while Earls is carrying a slight groin strain and O’Brien has a minor skin infection in his foot.