Dan Bowden hoping for plane sailing with Leicester Tigers after mid-air drama
Somewhere over the middle of Australia last weekend, Dan Bowden's involvement in tomorrow's LV= Cup game against London Irish was in severe doubt.
Sitting in the plush part of an Airbus A380 double-decker passenger plane, Bowden's gaze was attracted to sparks, flames and then a bang from outside his window.
With just an engine in view, 30,000 feet above the earth, it did not take the 26-year-old long to realise that his 24-hour journey from New Zealand to England had hit a major snag.
Bowden was returning from his wedding, near Auckland, to long-time girlfriend Hayley Moorwood, the captain of the New Zealand women's football team.
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The plan was to get back to Leicester in time to play against his countrymen in the Maori All Blacks side at Welford Road.
In the end, he made it for a second-half appearance off the bench – but only just.
"We started in Auckland and got to Sydney," he said.
"Then we had been going for about 40 minutes on the flight from Sydney to Dubai when I looked out across the right wing and saw a few orange sparks, then some flames and then a very loud bang.
"I have to admit to being very, very shocked and there was a lady behind me who thought the world was ending, which didn't help matters.
"I was really on edge. I thought to myself that if we were going down, what was I going to do from here? So I got my phone out to start writing texts to loved ones.
"You watch movies about these things happening and everyone acts tough until it actually happens to them.
"One of the air hostesses had lost it a bit too, and was getting calmed down by a senior person.
"But the captain was very calm and did a great job.
"The plane was huge. How they get in the air I have no idea.
"So they shut down the engine in question and we went back to Sydney. We landed at 10pm and the next flight was at 6am, so I just stayed in the lounge until check-in.
"When we took off the next morning, I had been awake for 20-odd hours. It was a nightmare."
Bowden had decided to cut short his celebrations to be back in time to play against the Maori.
Having gone though the Tigers play-sheet only a few hours before kick-off, it was an irony not lost on the former London Irish play-maker when he was yellow-carded for a high tackle just nine minutes after entering the fray.
"After 36 hours of delays and flights, I took one-too-many Red Bulls and got a bit over-excited, I think," he said.
Bowden may well be in the bad books with his new bride for leaving their celebrations to play a game of rugby, but the former Crusader knows he has to make the most of a month where he is likely to see plenty of action for Tigers after a truncated start to his career at Welford Road.
"I have had two ankle operations since coming here and, in my first game after that, I cracked a rib and was out for five weeks," he said.
"I am working my way back to match-fitness now and am looking forward to the opportunity to play in some key games coming up.
"It's my old club London Irish tomorrow. I am excited to play against a team I know very well and have a huge amount of respect for.
"They are a good side with some quality individuals. I may know some things from the camp that could help us."