The Ospreys today confirmed that they have reached an agreement with both Tommy Bowe and the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), which will see the winger returning to Ireland at the end of the season.
Bowe was contracted with the region until the summer of 2013, but under the terms of the agreement, the player will now be free to return to his homeland a year early.
Ospreys Chief Operations Officer, Andrew Hore, explained:
"We have come to an agreement with the IRFU which allows Tommy to return to Ulster.
“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.
“We remain totally committed to developing local young talent to play for both the Ospreys and Wales, and our record for doing so is unsurpassed since 2003. We have invested heavily in our development pathway for that very reason, and are seeing outstanding results. In particular, there is considerable strength in depth in the wing position, with a number of home-grown players now starting to make an impact.”
Bowe joined the Ospreys from Ulster in the summer of 2008 and made 77 appearances for the region, scoring 36 tries - one of which came in the 2010 Magners League Grand Final as the Ospreys secured the title with a 17-12 win over Leinster at a packed RDS Showground in Dublin.
Speaking about his move back to his home province, Bowe commented:
“After returning from the Rugby World Cup I met with the Ospreys senior management team to map out this season's schedule. It quickly became apparent that playing consistently for the Ospreys and representing Ireland to the best of my ability were becoming competing interests, and that upholding my commitment to the Ospreys whilst combining my Irish duties, would force a training and playing workload on me that was unsustainable.
“I understand the economic realities that Welsh regional rugby is confronting and the difficulties the Ospreys have in assembling a competitive squad whilst providing so many players to the Wales national team. When I was made aware of the IRFU's interest in me returning to Ireland I spoke openly with the Ospreys and we agreed it made sense, on a number of levels, to develop that interest.
“Obviously, I have mixed emotions. I'm sad to be leaving a club and a region that I have been proud to call my home for the last four years and that has improved me immeasurably both as a rugby player and as a person. I have made friends that will extend beyond my playing days and forged memories that will live with me forever. 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.”
Andrew Hore added:
“We realise that in continuing to develop homegrown talent that we will be without Welsh players for the international periods, However, it doesn’t make commercial sense to be also losing our NWQ players at the same time, when these players should be the constant in the squad throughout the season.
“We have a clear vision for the business, of what is needed to steer the Ospreys through difficult economic times in order to create long-term sustainability and ensure that not only this generation but future generations can enjoy top flight professional rugby in the region, through the development of players, coaches and administrators.
“To be able to achieve our aims we have to make some very difficult decisions for the good of the business.”