Heineken Cup: Tommy Bowe likely to miss Ulster's Saracens clash
Tommy Bowe is hopeful of returning to action before the end of the season but looks likely to miss Ulster's Heineken Cup quarter-final against Saracens.
Wing Bowe, 29, suffered a serious knee injury in December and has been ruled out of Ireland's Six Nations campaign.
He expects to return to action next month but the Heineken Cup tie on 6 April may come too soon for him.
"The knee is coming along well. Hopefully, I'll be back within the next four or five weeks," said Bowe.
"I'm 12 weeks post operation at this stage and it's meant to be a 16-week recovery period."
Bowe starred in the 2009 Lions Tour to South Africa but he admits his injury woes this season may have put paid to his changes of being named in the Warren Gatland's squad for this summer.
"It would be a dream come true to be picked but unfortunately I've left myself in a very difficult situation," added the Monaghan man.
Tommy Bowe on doubts over Stephen Ferris's Ulster future
“It's a very difficult position to be in. Contract negotiation is never an easy time”
"To miss out on the Six Nations and to have not been playing for the last couple of months makes it very difficult.
"I'm just aiming to get back on to the pitch and hopefully to play well enough to push myself back into the Ulster team again. With Andrew Trimble and Craig Gilroy playing so well, that isn't going to be easy.
"But if I could get myself back playing well, who knows what could happens."
Bowe is among a number of Ulster players in line to return to action after injury over the coming weeks.
These include the likes of Johann Muller, Nick Williams and Chris Henry and Bowe believes that the Irish province can challenge for this season's major honours, despite the team's recent struggles, if they can get people "out of the gym and on to the pitch again".
"It would be a good position for Ulster with the key fixtures coming up and hopefully we would be in a strong position," added Bowe.
He was speaking on a day when his Ulster and Ireland team-mate Stephen Ferris was being linked with a possible move to Japan with his current Ravenhill deal running out this summer.
The Ulster wing spoke of his hope that Ferris would remain with the Irish province.
"It's a very difficult position to be in," said Bowe. "Contract negotiation is never an easy time and with all the injuries Stephen has had over the last year, you have to feel for him.
"Everybody is Ulster wants him to play on with Ulster and be in an Ulster shirt for the next couple of years."