Bowe and Jones: A friendship spanning geography and time

They faced off in some vital Guinness Six Nations clashes and since retirement have set up their homes on opposite sides of the Irish Sea.

They faced off in some vital Guinness Six Nations clashes and since retirement have set up their homes on opposite sides of the Irish Sea.

But Adam Jones and Tommy Bowe have a friendship that spans both geography and time, and has come to encapsulate the values of this great game of ours.

Teammates for both the Ospreys and The British & Irish Lions but so often rivals in Rugby’s Greatest Championship, their friendship did not get off to the smoothest of starts…

Jones takes up the tale: “It all started in 2008. We were going for the Triple Crown and were on for the Grand Slam at Croke Park – a beautiful stadium.

“My first memory of him was that Ireland kicked long. He’d never come on to my radar before but to receive a kick, you’re usually in a pod of three and if the ball goes over you, the winger catches it – Shane Williams, he’s only a little duck at 5ft 7in.

“My job is that I’ve got to block the other winger chasing. My recollection is trying to block, shimmying across, and this bloke comes in and elbows me in the back. Obviously, that knocked me over. He tackled Shane and the melee ensued.

“That was my first memory of him and I knew he was signing for us at the Ospreys and the guys has gone and elbowed me in the back!”

For Bowe, his memory is a little different.

“If Shane is 5’7 high, Adam is about 5ft 7 wide, so he’s a good blocker! Pure muscle though, of course!” he said.

“But my first real memory of Adam, bar knocking him over, is that I’d just signed for the Ospreys a week earlier and didn’t really know any of the players.

“It was after the game and Gavin Henson was there, dressed up like he was the Great Gatsby with the hair slicked back, a cravat on, tanned to the max.

“I was sitting there with the Irish guys and Adam actually came over and put a pint of Guinness in front of me and introduced himself, and said he was looking forward to me coming and joining them next season.

“He was the first person from the Ospreys to come and say hello.”

And the friendship has blossomed ever since, including Lions Tours to South Africa in 2009 and Australia in 2013.

Overall, they met four times in Rugby’s Greatest Championship – most dramatically in 2009 in that Grand Slam decider in Cardiff.

Jones adds: “I haven’t seen Tommy for a fair while but you get back into it quite quickly. We played Ospreys, Lions and stuff together and obviously, we’re still close.

“You don’t skip a beat and there’s no awkwardness. The banter means you like each other!

“See, that’s the thing about rugby – whatever happens on the field, it’s forgotten after.

“There are huge rivalries on the pitch but the one great thing about rugby is that once the final whistle goes, you see the teams shaking hands.

“The great thing is that you spend time with your opposite number after the game. There is great camaraderie and friendship built between all the teams.”

Wales and Ireland are on a collision course again this weekend in the Welsh capital – but this time, it is Warren Gatland and Wales chasing the clean sweep.

And Jones has some fond memories of Grand Slams in red – he won three after all.

“We beat Ireland in 2005, which was a long time ago now, and we hadn’t won a Grand Slam for 27 years – not quite as long as Ireland but that one stands out as my favourite,” he added.

“Then we won two others, which was great. We beat England in 2013 to win the Championship and stopped them winning the Grand Slam. Being a proud Welshman, it’s always good to stop England winning something!

“I was pretty lucky Six Nations-wise with Grand Slams. I think I’ve got as many Grand Slams as Ireland in total!”

But Bowe is not taking that jibe lying down and is quick to remind Jones of that famous day in Cardiff in 2009.

“The Grand Slam game, the first one in 61 years, was obviously a huge occasion for Irish rugby. It was a pretty special day,” he interjects.

“The way the game came down to the final minute – you had Ronan O’Gara’s drop goal and Stephen Jones’s kick which just finished up short – it was a pretty big one.”

So strong is their friendship, that they even survived Bowe bringing the bragging rights back to the Liberty Stadium for club duty after the Championship.

‘Smug’ is how Jones remembers him. But again, Bowe remembers it differently.

He said: “Obviously, we won on the Saturday, I had to go back to Ireland and came back to Ospreys on the Tuesday and did a press conference with Ryan Jones.

“They were saying: ‘were you not tempted to bring your medal in’ but Ryan was very quick to tell me: ‘wait until you have two Grand Slam medals, then you can bring them in!’”