Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Bowe set for miracle comeback

Irishman to wear protective hurling glove after making stunning injury recovery

Tommy Bowe is preparing for a surprise return to test rugby tonight. Photo / Getty Images
Tommy Bowe is preparing for a surprise return to test rugby tonight. Photo / Getty Images

Three weeks ago a disconsolate Tommy Bowe texted his touring relatives to say they would not see him play again for the Lions.

After a pitchside diagnosis then x-rays, a spiral fracture through the metacarpal in his hand had ended his hopes of challenging the Wallabies.

Later that night after a flurry of telephone calls and information from Brisbane surgeon Peter Rowan, Bowe's spirits lifted.

There was a chance - if surgery went well and he followed a rigorous rehabilitation programme - he could make it back in three weeks.

"Let's get into it" was Bowe's response, as he redialled the relatives to tell them he was still on tour.

Dr Rowan cancelled his Sunday sailing and headed into theatre and Bowe's lifelong appreciation.

Tonight the Irishman will wear a protective hurling glove and the No14 jersey for the Lions as they seek to nail a series win for the first time since 1997.

Many factors contributed to his return, not least his iron determination. The surgery, extensive physiotherapy with the team medics and a hurling glove for some added protection.

"It feels good, hasn't restricted it at all. It's just a bit of padding," said Bowe.

Irish teammate Andrew Trimble played in a hurling glove to guard a fractured hand several years ago and that gave Bowe the idea to get in touch with the makers who sent one to Australia.

"I didn't know whether I'd be back in time for the test matches but there was always that opportunity and to get picked in it now is an even higher emotion."

The Melbourne test became the target for Bowe. His hand felt strong last week but he wanted to be extra careful. "It's tough watching and it's going to be difficult after two weeks out, but I felt good how I played in the previous matches," he said.

"I've come back from a bad injury already earlier in the season."

He was honoured the selectors picked him ahead of Alex Cuthbert, who scored a cracking try in the first test in Brisbane.

There was massive pressure tonight in Melbourne but if the Lions got the result, the reward would more than make up for his personal low.

The Lions had not contemplated the fall back position of one-all. They wanted to be unbeaten on tour.

That eroded with a loss to the Brumbies but they wanted to clean sweep the tests.

He and others had suffered four years ago in South Africa when they lost the second test and series to a last minute penalty.

"That was heart-breaking. This time around it's a different pressure but it's more exciting this time," he said.

Bowe has put his hand through a range of exercises, tackling, ripping and catching and while there is some soreness he has not lost any strength. He will not take any painkillers as he feels the adrenalin will mask any discomfort.

Wallaby wing Israel Folau had made a remarkable debut where his work in the air and on the ground in Brisbane was stunning.

"He's a man they will be looking to a lot this week, after he played so well last weekend. All the Aussies will be putting pressure on him, but I think he's shown in three different codes - two codes of rugby and AFL - he rises to the occasion and he will be a big threat this weekend."

His opposite Joe Tomane had a similar approach to the injured Digby Ioane. He was good on his feet, had a strong fend and finished well.

Bowe had spoken to Cuthbert a few times about the challenges.

"The pressure is on me because I've been brought straight in for him and I realise that is a big call.

"He is on the bench and he will want to come on and make a big impact," said Bowe.

"That's putting a lot of pressure on me and means I have to go out there and repay the faith that Warren [Gatland] has put in me."

- NZ Herald

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