Tommy Bowe might be a returning hero at Ulster this season, but the wing insists he is ready to fight for his jersey rather than have one handed straight back to him.
The 28-year-old will begin his second stint at Ravenhill in this year’s RaboDirect PRO12 campaign, having left the Ulstermen in 2008 to join Ospreys.
Bowe’s move to Wales revitalised his career not only for club but also for his country, going on to become a permanent figure on the wing for Ireland, being named Six Nations player of the year in 2010 as well as being called up for the British and Irish Lions.
But despite this glowing CV upon his return to Ulster, Bowe knows he faces a fight on his hands to walk back in the first XV with Craig Gilroy and Andrew Trimble already on the books.
However Bowe is more than happy to have a tussle, believing his fight to stamp his mark on Ospreys when he moved to Wales has set him in good stead this time around.
“It is great to be back,” he said. “It’s been a while. I had a great couple of years over in Wales but Ulster is my home and I am happy to be back.
“It was a bit of a gamble going over to Wales in the first place but I have made a lot of great mates over there and I really enjoyed the rugby and I think I learnt a lot.
“So coming back to Ulster hopefully I can bring some of that with me.
“Having to go over there and really test myself because going into a new team you really have to push yourself and that really spurred me on.
“I think that pushed me on to get back into the Irish team again and I have enjoyed my time back with Ireland and hopefully coming to Ulster it can have a similar effect.
“There are a lot of young players here at the minute and a lot of experienced players so I am going to have to work hard to get myself into the Ulster team and hopefully that will push me on to keep going in the Ireland team.”
While in Ospreys colours Bowe lifted the RaboDirect PRO12 title twice, including last year, but failed to shine on the European stage.
However last year saw Ulster reach the final and although they ended up losing to Leinster at Twickenham, Bowe admits it is the lack of a Heineken Cup winner’s medal in his collection that is occupying his mind.
“I won the league twice in four years at Ospreys but unfortunately in the Heineken Cup we struggled a bit,” Bowe added.
“So I think with Ulster’s success in the Heineken Cup last year I think that is definitely a focus for us and hopefully we can do the full package this year.”