When it comes to powers of recovery, no-one could surpass Tommy Bowe on the British & Irish Lions tour.
The Irish winger fractured his hand in the Lions’ victory over the Queensland Reds on June 8 but he recovered in time to take his place in the starting line-up for the second Test in Melbourne, just three weeks later.
Early indications were not great for Bowe, who sustained a fracture of his second metacarpal, but the nature of the break gave the 29-year-old a glimmer of hope.
Lions doctor Eanna Falvey took Bowe to see Dr Peter Rowan at the Brisbane Private Hospital and the examination of the injury offered some light at the end of the tunnel.
Rowan believed that with the insertion of three pins during an operation that lasted one hour to bind the bone together, Bowe could be able to play again within three to four weeks.
There were still no guarantees Bowe would return in time but as Lions head doctor James Robson pointed out, this was no ordinary patient.
“The specialist said he had seen one or two people come back early, maybe not in the time frame we were wanting, but why don’t we do it and give it a go.
“The player has to be positive about it and understand it is not without a small risk, that there is a possibility of failure and that it might be uncomfortable and that he is going to have to work bloody hard.
“We say to the player ’do you want to do it? We are prepared to help you’. And Tommy put his hand up and said ’Yes, I bloody do’.”
“You can’t praise Tommy highly enough. You have to have a special person to be able to cope with that regime. We did have to say to him that at some point it may go wrong and he may have to go home.
“Tommy’s recovery is up there with the best stories.”
Warren Gatland was clearly keen to have Bowe, who toured South Africa in 2009, at his disposal and after selecting him in Melbourne, he kept his place for the deciding Test in Sydney, and the rest is history.
“I was pretty much told it was curtains when I hurt my hand,” said Bowe. “On the side of the pitch, the doctor just said, ‘I’m sorry’.
“I went for the X-rays and they all showed a spiral fracture down through the metacarpal. My family are all over here and I just texted them all to say ‘game over’. I thought that was it.
“I was pretty much resigned to it in the hospital until Eanna Falvey, the doctor, called the surgeon and he was the one who said, ‘I’ve had rugby league guys coming back within three weeks, max’, so that was the shining light – the possibility that there might be a chance to stay on.
“All of a sudden, when I got that bit of information at quarter to 12 at night, I was back in the hotel and it was a range of emotions. To go from the lows, thinking your tour is over so early, to thinking that you have a chance.”