Ospreys winger Tommy Bowe says that he's looking forward to going face-to-face with his old teammates at the Liberty Stadium this weekend when Ulster are the visitors in the Magners League (Saturday 27th September, KO 5.30pm).
FRIENDS REUNITED AT LIBERTY STADIUM AS BOWE PREPARES FOR ULSTER CHALLENGE
The Monaghan born flier spent five years at Ravenhill prior to switching to the Ospreys in the summer, establishing himself as firm crowd favourite as he carved a reputation as an exciting, powerful runner with an eye for a gap. In the short time since arriving in Ospreylia he has already shown what he is capable of, scoring an opportunistic try in the win over Cardiff Blues and catching the eye on numerous occasions with his intelligent running. Now, last season's Irish Player's Player of the Year says he can't wait lock horns with former colleagues.
"It's going to be a little strange playing against Ulster, but I'm looking forward to it. I had a great time there and I've got plenty of friends in the camp so it's going to be good to meet up with everyone and catch up with them, but the friendships will be put on hold for 80 minutes or so when we cross the white line. Professional sport is a pretty unique thing, and rugby in particular, when you can spend an hour and a half knocking lumps out of people and then shake hands at the end of it, and Saturday's game will be no different to any other in that respect. If I'm selected it will just be a case of preparing as normal, focusing on the game and ensuring everything is done properly.
"The fact that it's against my old side, and I'm coming up against players I have worked and trained with for five years, people I call my friends, doesn't come into it in the slightest. I'm a professional rugby player and that comes first, friendships will be put aside and the most important factor will be helping to secure another win for the Ospreys. Regardless of who we're playing, whether it's Ulster where I used to play, or anyone else, every game has to be treated the same as any other.
"There will be some friends from home in the crowd who are coming over for the weekend, and I'm hoping that they will be adding their support to the Ospreys while their here but we'll have to wait and see. I've got no doubt that there will be a few Ulstermen here making a racket as usual, they tend to turn up in numbers everywhere, so hopefully they'll be kind to me and give me a decent welcome and not too many boos!"
Bowe currently stands second in the all time Magners try list with 29, needing just one try to equal Matthew J Watkins record of 30, and he admits there would be a certain irony if he were to achieve that landmark against his former club:
"These things always tend to happen don't they? Having spent five enjoyable years as part of the Ulster set-up, where I scored all bar one of my Magners League tries, it wouldn't surprise me if that happened, but I'm not really paying much attention to records and facts and figures. I'd take not scoring and the Ospreys winning over me getting that try but losing anytime. Of course, records are nice to have on the CV but I'm not spending too much time thinking about it."
The Ireland star is currently locked in an international three-way battle for a wing berth with Wales and Ospreys record try scorer Shane Williams and Scotland's Nikki Walker, and he says that the competition is spurring everybody on:
"There is strength in depth right the way through the squad, and it's no different on the wing. I can only speak for myself, but the competition in the squad is a huge positive as you know that you can't take anything for granted, you have to be on the top of your game every day in training as well as matchday. Players like Shane and Nikki are proven performers at the highest standard, so it's a challenge just to get into the starting fifteen. We all realise that any slight drop in standard will see one of the others edge in front of you so it keeps you on your toes and keeps you focused.
"Obviously, the strength of the Ospreys squad was an attraction when I signed, as a professional rugby player you can't fail to be excited about the prospect of being part of a squad including so many quality international players. The flipside of that is that you know you are constantly on trial, if you've got the shirt there are excellent players waiting to take it off you, pushing hard and trying to show the coach what they are capable of. In the long run that can only be a good thing for everyone."
Tickets for the match are currently on sale at the Liberty Stadium Ticket Office, online at www.ospreysrugby.com or via the Ticket Hotline on 08700 400 004.
The new match-day bus service will again be operating on Saturday, providing a low-cost and convenient transport option to supporters in all corners of Ospreylia. Costing between £3.15 and £5.00 per adult return, depending on collection point, with a child return priced just £2.40, the service will depart from Neath at 4.35pm, Gowerton at 4.20pm, Abercrave at 3.55pm, Oystermouth at 4.10pm and Pencoed at 3.40pm, with each route picking up at a number of stops. For the first time, the Pencoed service will call at Port Talbot Railway Station en route at 4.40pm. All services depart the Liberty Stadium post-match at 7.45pm. Tickets are available to purchase on a first- come, first-serve basis from the coach driver on the day (space limited to 49 seats). For full details of the scheduled timetable please check out www.ospreysrugby.com