Ulster confirm Bowe return
March 6, 2012
Tommy Bowe has scored five tries in the 2012 Six Nations so far © Getty Images
Ireland international Tommy Bowe has signed a three-year deal to return to Ulster at the end of the season.
The 28-year-old, who has scored five tries in this year's Six Nations, has played for the Ospreys since the 2008 and is contracted at the Liberty Stadium until the end of next season. But with the introduction of the salary cap in Wales and Irish Rugby Football Union regulations restricting the signing of overseas players, a deal has been struck that will see Bowe granted an early release.
The British & Irish Lions international is delighted to be returning to Ravenhill, where he played before making the switch to the Liberty Stadium, and is looking forward to linking up once again with former mentor and now Ulster operations director David Humphreys. "Obviously, I have mixed emotions," said Bowe. "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.
"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. His vision 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."
Humphreys was delighted with the re-signing of Bowe, adding: "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."
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."
Explaining Bowe's earlier than expected exit, the Ospreys' chief operations officer Andrew Hore said: "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 added: "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.
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."
© ESPN EMEA Ltd
"At full-time I could not see the field for people dancing in front of me." Tom Hamilton reflects on the Lions' defeat at the hands of the Brumbies in Canberra
To coincide with the Lions' tour of Australia, and in association with Dove Men+Care, we are asking you to vote for the greatest Lions moments of the professional era
"He's full of empathy...he calms the water...he's the Brumbies' saviour," was how a taxi driver in Canberra described Jake White." Tom Hamilton files his latest Tour Diary
"I am not alone in believing this series could well be decided by who can steal most ball after the tackle." John Taylor previews the Lions' first Test showdown with Australia