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Lions Spirit To Bowe’s Liking

Lions Spirit To Bowe’s Liking

Tommy Bowe is not nicknamed ‘Comedy Bowe’ for nothing. The Monaghan man leaves defences for dead on the pitch and laughter in his wake off it. But he might have met his match in Mike Blair.

Tommy Bowe’s room-mate with the Lions in Johannesburg is Scotland scrum half Mike Blair, who came into the tour party in place of the injured Tomas O’Leary.

Bowe and Blair look set to be two of the characters of the South African tour and they may well feature together in the Test team in the weeks to come.

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In an entry in his Irish Times Lions tour diary, the Ireland winger reflected on the long flight south from Heathrow and his lasting first impression of Blair.

“We arrived in Johannesburg on Monday. Donncha (O’Callaghan), Paul (O’Connell) and the rest of the second rows looked extremely refreshed as they had to slum it in first class,” he said.

“They liked to point this out to us when they did a catwalk down the aisle of the plane in their pyjamas that only went up to their knees! Probably the best fitting clothes I’ve ever seen Alun Wyn Jones wear!

“On arrival at the hotel, we were greeted by a traditional South African song and dance performed in front of the hotel – certainly different to the type of moves I would be pulling on the dance floor.

“My new room-mate Mike Blair, or ‘Blade’ as he likes to be known, has been doing his best to copy them in front of the mirror…naked.”

Blair should take note though. His room-mate was one of the Ireland players who played a memorable prank on bag man Paddy ‘Rala’ O’Reilly to ease the tension on the eve of the Grand Slam match against Wales in Cardiff.

Poor Rala was bound up in a duvet with duct tape, gagged and sent up and down in the hotel lift for a good 30 minutes. Rala, watch your back in Johannesburg!

Bowe, who has scored five tries in his last eight Test matches, enjoyed the bonding experience at the training camp in Surrey which included a trip to a pub to watch the Heineken Cup final.

“I am a firm believer that there is no better way of bonding than enjoying a few beers in each other’s company and last Wednesday and Saturday certainly proved that.

“Not too many beers were taken but enough for everybody to loosen up and the stories soon started flowing quicker than the drink!

“The Leinster support in Edinburgh looked amazing and was a final that we all enjoyed watching. What a year it could be for the (Leinster) guys – who came straight from Dublin to join us in Surrey the next day – if we could go on and repeat the success from the last tour of South Africa in 1997.”

The various player committees have been formed in Johannesburg, with Munster and Ireland’s Keith Earls joining Adam Jones and Nathan Hines in deciding the room-mate pairings.

Scotland lock Hines said: “We discussed it and decided we wanted to make sure there would be no cliques, which was something all the players agreed right at the start.

“I’ve been warned that we may be few in number but if I’m seen speaking to another Scot by myself that’s a clique! So we’re making sure that everyone rooms with someone from a different country.

“Ross Ford is with the captain Paul O’Connell to help him get integrated into the squad quickly.

“It’s good. There’s a real ‘club’ feel already. It started to come together at the beginning of last week to be honest and I think Ian McGeechan, Gerald Davies and the coaches have really done a great job of making sure this feels like a real Lions tour.”

Hines also spoke of two of the funniest moments so far on tour.

His room-mate in Surrey, Welsh flanker Martyn Williams, is still getting a fair ribbing over his missed penalty in the Heineken Cup semi-final shoot-out between Cardiff and Leicester.

His sponsors Puma had a special box of kit sent to Williams last week, as Hines told the Scotsman newspaper.

“Martyn was excited, saying, ‘great, some new goodies’, and when he opened the box he found 15 kicking tees courtesy of Puma. The boys liked that one.”

Williams’ Cardiff and Wales team-mate Andy Powell has also been the butt of some jokes.

“The Welsh boys are certainly going to be entertaining on this tour. At the big official dinner before we left, with around 2,000 there, the management were asked to stand up and show themselves because they were less well-known than the players,” Hines said.

“Andy Powell hadn’t heard what was said and stood up – no one else did and he was standing like an idiot. According to some of the Welsh boys, he does that sort of thing a lot, so he could be the most unwittingly funny tourist.”

But the serious business of beating South Africa lies ahead and the entire squad has embraced the challenge of beating the ‘Boks in their own backyard.

Bowe said: “South Africa are the World champions – the Lions always seem to like to pick the world champions – so we’ve got our work cut out.

“But it is another challenge. When I moved from Ulster to the Ospreys it was a challenge, it was something different.

“And going into the Six Nations this season, we (Ireland) were kind of written off almost, and then we beat France in our first game.

“It is just something about those matches when you are written off a little bit or things are going against you.”