Tommy Bowe would love to cap his comeback season with a place on a third Lions tour

The Monaghan star is one the way back to full fitness after injury issues

Tommy Bowe would love to cap his comeback season with a place on a third Lions tour

Tommy Bowe at the end of the Third Test against Australia in 2013. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Ireland's 2016 campaign was one that did not feature Tommy Bowe.

The Ulster winger missed out on the Six Nations, the tour of South Africa and the Autumn Internationals due to injury. His last time to don the green jersey came in the 2015 World Cup quarter-final defeat to Argentina. He left that game injured in the first half after suffering posterior cruciate ligament and meniscal injuries to his right knee.

Despite not featuring for Ireland in the Autumn internationals, Bowe was a proud viewer as Ireland defeated New Zealand for the first time, in Chicago. 

"I'm delighted to see the team go so well", he told Newstalk.com. "To beat the All Blacks in particular was something that was amazing to watch, and in the manner that we did it. What a game of rugby... With the Autumn in general, I thought the way Ireland played was brilliant.

"I'd love to be there. Having not been involved since the World Cup has been tough... For me it's about making small steps. I'm getting closer and closer to reaching the level that I want. I'm not there yet and that only comes with playing games."

The closest the Monaghan native has come to playing international rugby since the World Cup, came in Belfast, when he lined out for the Barbarians against Fiji. The 32-year-old started at outside centre in the 40-7 win, and he loved playing for the invitational side for the first time.

Bowe compared the bond built with those Baa-Baas teammates to the ones he built on the Lions tours of 2009 and 2013, when the team toured South Africa. 

"I met a couple of good, really interesting players from the Southern Hemisphere. A couple of up and coming players who will be guys to looking out for in the coming years. If the opportunity came up again, it's something I'd jump at."

While Bowe has now played for two of the World's most famous combined rugby teams, in the Barbarians and the Lions, it is the team in red, where he has shone.

Such was the Bowe's perceived importance in 2013, that he was kept on tour, despite breaking his hand in a game against Queensland Reds. He returned in time for the Second Test, and was part of the team that won a tour series for the first time since 1997.

Dr Peter Rowan with Tommy Bowe. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

When asked what linked himself with Jamie Heaslip and Mike Phillips, it did not take long for Bowe to answer, that the trio have started five of the last six Lions test matches. No active player has started more than that.

He has toured South Africa and Australia, but a trip to New Zealand is missing from his Lions CV. With a tour against the World Champions coming up next summer, the Emyvale flyer admitted thoughts of another tour were creeping in to his head.

"Both tours were experiences right up at the top of my career. To get the opportunity to play on a third Lions tour would be very special. If I can get myself back in form, if I can get myself playing to the level I know I can, I'd love to get the opportunity. There's a lot of water to go under the bridge though."

A strong run with Ulster for Bowe, could seem him force his way back into the Ireland team in time for the Six Nations. From there, anything is possible.

Tommy Bowe was speaking at the launch of Coca-Cola’s 12th Annual Designated Driver Campaign. Coca-Cola is proud to support Irish road safety by rewarding Designated Drivers with two FREE Drinks from the Coca-Cola range. Redemption vouchers can be downloaded from www.designateddriver.ie