The reputation of a winger can be carved out or crushed in one game or moment. In 2007, Tommy Bowe did not even make Ireland's squad for the World Cup. Last year, he got his chance in the Six Nations and claimed a surprise spot with the British & Irish Lions following a polished performance in the Grand Slam-winning encounter against Wales.
It featured a try to savour, when he collected a chip from Ronan O'Gara and left Shane Williams, the 2008 IRB International Player of the Year, in his wake. From seemingly nowhere, Bowe, 26, is now mentioned in the same breath as Bryan Habana, the South African winger, and New Zealand's Joe Rokocoko. That is the view of Mark Cueto, whose England side will be out to stop the Ospreys' rising star from wrecking their own Grand Slam hopes today at Twickenham.
The Sale winger has witnessed Bowe's rise, and is fulsome in his praise. "For me, any team with a player like him is going to be better," said Cueto, who missed England training on Thursday with a virus. "Over the past couple of years he has been in great form and you have to keep him quiet if you want to beat Ireland. "To the public and rugby fans, he may be slightly underrated, but I think Tommy Bowe is up there with the best.
"If you ask people about the best wingers in the world, names like Habana come to mind and he's fantastic and lightning quick, which is good on the eye. "I don't think people think of Tommy as one of those, but I think he is. You rarely see him have a bad game. He's strong and deceptively quick. At the top level, that's one of the keys to be successful." Another is anticipation. It is a trait that Cueto has shown in his own career.
"I think the good players are always in the right place at the right time," he said. "Some people think it's flukey, but it isn't. It is definitely a skill. "Look at football and someone like Alan Shearer. He wasn't a Cristiano Ronaldo or a glitzy player, but you'd have him in your team every day of the week because that's what he did. He worked hard and got himself into the right place to finish off chances."
If he is well enough to play, Cueto will hope to do just that against the Irish to make it three successive wins for England in this Six Nations campaign. It is eight Tests since his last try and he has suffered from England's cautious attacking approach. But Cueto understands the reliance on kickers by teams, not just England. "The margin of victory is often down to a few points and kickers are becoming more and more important," he said.
"It's almost a shame. We'd all love to see mavericks and skilful players in the game creating great moves and tries. I haven't scored one for a while and seem to be that one pass away. It's frustrating, but I'm sure it will come." Meanwhile, Scotland visit Italy with both teams looking for their first points of this season's tournament. The Italians won their last home fixture with the Scots two years ago and fly-half Dan Parks is desperate to avoid another such result. "I believe they Italians will come at us through the forwards," he said. "All 22 blokes out there are going to have to be on guard."
@Email:email@example.com England v Ireland, 8pm, Aljazeera Sport +3