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Bowe Returns to Ulster Colours

Guinness PRO12 Editor

6 Mar 2012

The Irish Rugby Football Union today confirmed the signing of International wing Tommy Bowe who will return to play in Ireland with Ulster next season until 2015.

Following agreement from his current club Ospreys, Bowe has been given early release from his contract with the club to allow him to take up a new contract with the IRFU and to play in Ulster for the next three seasons.

Schooled at Royal School Armagh, Bowe began his professional career with Ulster, making a try scoring debut for the province in the 2003/04 season. His elevation to the senior Ulster team followed selection for the Ulster schools team and also playing at full back and wing for the Ireland U21 team in 2004, being part of the squad that reached the final of the IRB under 21 World Cup, but was ruled out of the semi final and final due to injury.

Bowe won his first cap for Ireland against the USA in the old Lansdowne Road the following season, scoring a try on his debut in November 2004. He continued to play for Ulster for the following three seasons, amassing 91 appearances and scoring 34 tries. During that time, he was part of the Ulster team that won the 2004/05 Celtic League.

At the end of the 2007/08 seasons he moved to the Ospreys club in Wales and continued to represent Ireland, being part of the Ireland team that won the Six Nations Championship in 2009 and was also selected to tour South Africa with the British & Irish Lions, playing in six games including all three test matches.

The 2010 season was a particularly good year for the Monaghan man, being named as the RBS Player of the Championship for the 2010 RBS 6 Nations as well as the IRUPA Player of the Year 2010 and the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Player of the Year.

He was selected in the Ireland squad for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, scoring two tries against the USA in New Plymouth and has continued that form by scoring five tries so far in the RBS Six Nations Championship for Ireland.

Bowe, a Ravenhill favourite, has enjoyed his spell in Wales, but is looking forward to returning to Belfast and said:

“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 three years and that has improved me immeasurably both as a rugby player and as a person. 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.

David Humphreys was a mentor of mine in my early playing days and we have remained friends during my time at the Ospreys. Hisvision for Ulster is impressive, with Ulster born players at the core of this vision. I hope to repay the IRFU and Ulster's faith in me by contributing to a team that is already delivering. The vibe at Ulster is undeniably positive. I've been training and playing with some of the Ulster boys during the Six Nations and there is a real energy and sense of anticipation as to what lies ahead for this Ulster team.”

IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne said:

“The policy for the IRFU will continue to have as many Irish qualified players playing here in Ireland to maintain both the competiveness of the provinces and to allow the players to be managed for the benefit of the Ireland team. I am delighted that Tommy Bowe has chosen to return to Ulster to play and it speaks volumes for both the system we have here in Ireland and the building momentum in Ulster that a player of his standing in the game has committed himself long term to his home province.”

Ulster Director of Rugby David Humphreys commented:

“We are delighted to be in a position to finally confirm that Tommy will be playing his rugby with Ulster next season and I’d like to thank the IRFU for their assistance in bringing him home. The speculation around his return over the past number of weeks is testament to the level of regard that the Ulster Rugby public have for him and rightly so. Skillful, physical, and a proven finisher with a knack of being in the right place at the right time, there’s no doubt that Tommy has consistently been one of European rugby’s best players over the past few seasons and he’ll bring a lot of experience and flair to our backline.”

The Ospreys also confirmed his departure.

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.”

Tommy Bowe Career Details

Born: 22nd February 1984
Ireland Career
Debut: V USA 20/11/2004
Caps: 47
Points: 120 (24 tries)

Ulster Career
Debut: V Connacht 16/04/2004
Caps: 91
Points: 170 (34 tries)

Ospreys Career
Debut: Connacht 05/09/2008
Caps: 77
Points: 180 (36 tries)

British & Irish Lions
Debut: V Royal XV 30/05/2009 (Tour to South Africa)
Appearances: 6
Points: 20 (4 Tries)