Tommy Bowe is back and will win his fourth cap for the British & Irish Lions in Melbourne on Saturday night – complete with hurling glove.
The Ulster and Ireland flyer fractured a bone in his hand in the win over Queensland Reds on 8 June and had to have an operation the next day to sort it out. At that stage his tour looked to be in doubt, yet three weeks on he will be playing against the Qantas Wallabies.
“Credit to the surgeon who performed the operation because there were other surgeons who said it was a 6-8 week injury. He was confident that if he looked after himself Tommy could be back in three weeks,” said Lions head coach Warren Gatland.
“He has got a hurling glove he is wearing for a little bit of extra protection, but he has worked hard to get back. It is what you expect from a professional sportsman and all the players have been very conscientious about recovering after games and looking after themselves.
“If they have had a knock they’ve had early nights and Tommy just epitomises one of 39 of the squad and how diligent they have been in looking after themselves. He is obviously quality and he brings a lot of experience.
“He has been a fantastic player for both Ulster and Ireland and he has made a fantastic recovery from injury and he has slotted in really well this week.”
Bowe had to battle back from a knee injury last season to be fit in time to cram in three games for Ulster to convince the Lions selectors of his fitness. He had to follow the same strict regime in order to make it back for Test selectioin within three weeks in Australia.
“It has been a real roller-coaster few weeks and I’ve done everything and anything to try to get it fixed. I’ve been taking protein shakes, calcium tablets, omega tablets and vitamins as well as having constant icing and physio two, three or four times a day,” explained Bowe.
“To go from seeing the fracture put up on the board, the X-Ray, to be shown the fracture spiral right through the bone and be told that that’s pretty much my tour over to being told by the surgeon that he’s had guys come back within three weeks was emotional.
“But that enabled me to get back for selection for the second Test. Then I had to go through all the physio and everything else to try and get myself back and available – . it has been a bit of a roller coaster.
“But these are the sort of games that you want to be involved in. You play your career in rugby to play in big games. Getting injured is the hardest part of professional sport.
“Whenever you get picked to play in a match like this it makes it all worth it – as long as you win. That’s the big thing and that’s the motivation for us this weekend.
“The boys did all the hard work last weekend, it’s the second half now and we need to come out with a good performance.”