Comeback kid: Medicine be damned, Tommy Bowe returns to the Lions side only two weeks after breaking his hand

By Alan Dymock

IN A more surprising comeback than the denim jacket, Tommy Bowe has returned to the Lions starting team just a fortnight after breaking his hand.

Doctor James Robson has expressed his shock at welcoming Bowe back to full training and the story of his return to the Tests will go down as one of the great tour tales. He is only one of many who have disregarded the docs on their way to a glorious return…

Back in black: Steve Thompson re-invented himself at Brive

Steve Thompson

In April of 2007, Thompson retired from rugby after suffering a serious neck injury for Northampton earlier that year.

The English World Cup winner and Lions tourist in 2005 signed on with Brive as a “technical advisor” the next season, but just months into his stay he announced a comeback. Everything was declared above board, medically, and he played again some seven months after retiring. He was recalled to England duty in 2009, returned to the Premiership with Leeds Carnegie in 2010, scored for England in the Six Nations in 2011 and signed for Wasps for the 2011/2012 season.

He retired just after starting pre-season with Wasps after his neck problems flared up again, but by that point he had already cemented himself in rugby folklore.

Danny Cipriani

At the end of the 2007/08 season Cipriani suffered an horrific fracture dislocation of his ankle. Just six months later, though, Cipriani was sprinting out for Wasps against the very club he had fallen against the season before, Bath.

His recovery was months ahead of schedule and coincided with an injury to Jonny Wilkinson. Shortly after returning, the talented tyro was pulled into the England starting 15 for the autumn internationals.

He was unceremoniously dropped after two games as the rudder man after a thumping against South Africa at Twickenham, with Toby Flood replacing him. Nevertheless, he had climbed back to the top of the game in record time.

Back in the game (-ish): Cipriani with England, 2008

Paul O’Connell

He may not have been rebuilt like the Bionic Man or Robocop, clunking back into play months ahead of schedule, but O’Connell was back into Lions contention just in time for tour selection.

O’Connell had some dark times after having surgery on a bulging disc in his back,commenting that just after Christmas he found it hard to see himself being in the mix in the summer. He fought back, though, and after a powerhouse display against Harlequins in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals he announced to the world that he was ready to play some tour rugby again.

Although he is now out of that tour, he also impressed in the first Lions Test against the Wallabies.

Dan Lydiate

Two years after a crushed disc, a broken vertebra and torn neck ligaments, Dan Lydiate made his debut for Wales.

He had been playing for Newport Gwent Dragons in 2007 when he suffered the injury in the Heineken Cup against Perpignan. He clawed his way back from the disappointment and in 2009 he was running out at the Millennium Stadium.

Sounds like a resilient bloke? Well he was at it again this season, squeezing himself into the Lions squad despite a broken ankle keeping the flanker out until April. Now he is a Test starter – replacing Tom Croft who also staged a miraculous comeback this season, recovering from a career and potentially life-threatening broken neck to win the Aviva Premiership with Leicester Tigers and play for England and the Lions – for the next hit-out against the Wallabies.