Howley Joins Canada and Arrows
Source: Michael Steele/Getty Images
Rugby Canada has announced that they have hired Rob Howley as a senior assistant coach for the men’s national XV’s team. The announcement was made in collaboration with the Toronto Arrows and Howley will serve as a consultant for the club.
As Pacific Pride head coach Jamie Cudmore said in the official press release, Howley is “one of the best tactical coaches in the world”. I would strongly agree with Cudmore’s assessment. Howley has been a key cog for Wales since joining the set-up in 2008. Howley has served as an assistant coach (attack) under Warren Gatland and on occasion, has stepped up to fulfil the head coaching duties in times of Gatland’s absence.
One of these occasions was the 2013 Six Nations tournament were Howley led Wales to a title. Howley has helped Wales to four Six Nations Championships in 2008, 2012, 2013, and 2019. Three of those titles (2008, 2012, and 2019) were Grand Slams for Wales. Additionally, Howley served as the attack coach on three British & Irish Lions tours in 2009, 2013, and 2017. Howley’s attacking structure guided the Lions to a series win over Australia in 2013 and an unforgettable series draw with the All Blacks in 2017.
Howley was the Welsh attack coach for the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cups. He was due to take on that role again in 2019. However, just six days before Wales was set to open their tournament, Howley was suspended. Howley was gambling on matches, including matches that involved Wales or the Welsh players.
Following an investigation, it was revealed that Howley had placed 363 bets covering 1,163 total matches. All of the matches took place between November 2015 and September 2019. In total the Welsh Rugby Union estimated that Howley lost £4000 betting on rugby matches during that time. Howley was handed a 9 months suspension making him eligible to return back on June 16, 2020. Howley has since opened up on the death of his sister and how that related to his gambling.
Howley was set to become the head coach of Italy following the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Obviously, his suspension prevented that from happening.
Howley will now get a fresh start in Canada. It’s a chance to rebuild his career following the betting scandal. Kingsley Jones will now have one of the best attack coaches in the world as part of the Canadian set-up. Additionally, with Howley serving as a consultant to the Toronto Arrows, their coaching staff is in a position to benefit greatly from Howley’s experience and knowledge.
Ultimately, Howley’s addition is absolutely massive for Rugby Canada. Coaches of this calibre do not end up in Canada very often. The Lions are one of the world’s most prestigious teams and Wales thrived as a powerhouse during his tenure. It is an unfortunate circumstance that sees Howley land on Canadian soil. However, Howley has fully served his punishment for his actions.
Rugby Canada can be an opportunity for him to hit the reset button and start fresh away from the spotlight of a tier-one nation. For being willing to provide Howley with a second chance, Canada (and the Arrows) receive one of the great rugby minds. Howley’s specialty is backs and the attack. The attack has been an area of the game where Canada has struggled lately even drawing some criticism that it is simply too easy to defend against.
Under Howley, I hope that will no longer be an issue and Canada can begin ascending the world rankings once again.
The landscape of Major League Rugby continues to shift. The Arrows and the San Diego Legion were the top teams in each conference prior to the 2020 season being cancelled. Both clubs have made some big splashes this off-season with major signings such as Manuel Montero and Chris Robshaw reinforcing the belief that they are the heavyweights of the league.
The Legion has also announced that England coach Eddie Jones will be a consultant for the club. Jones and Howley now make two marquee coaches providing consulting work to MLR clubs. Could this be the beginning of a trend within the league? Will other clubs feel the need to seek out their own elite coaching consultants in order to keep pace with the Legion and the Arrows? Time will tell.
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