I have to prove my­self all over again, ad­mits How­ley

Coach sent home in dis­grace from World Cup and banned for bet­ting on games can­not wait to make a new start with Canada

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport / Rugby Union - By Mick Cleary CHIEF RUGBY UNION WRITER

Ayear af­ter he re­turned home shame­facedly from the World Cup in Japan once it was dis­cov­ered that he had been bet­ting on rugby matches, for­mer Wales coach Rob How­ley has told

The Daily Tele­graph that he has “to prove him­self all over again”, af­ter an ex­pe­ri­ence that he says he “would not wish on my worst en­emy”.

How­ley has been con­firmed as as­sis­tant coach to Rugby Canada in a three-year deal that will take him through to the next World Cup in France, his first job since serv­ing an 18-month ban (nine months of which was sus­pended) for his il­licit ac­tiv­i­ties.

It is just over 12 months to the day since Wales’s World Cup prepa­ra­tions were rocked and How­ley’s world was plunged into tur­moil af­ter the 49-year-old’s gam­bling habit was ex­posed, a tip-off from a book­maker leav­ing Welsh Rugby Union ex­ec­u­tives no op­tion but to fly to Japan and un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously ex­pel their long-stand­ing coach just a few days be­fore the tour­na­ment be­gan.

How­ley re­turned to Wales as a pariah, even need­ing to cover his head with a blan­ket in the back of the car car­ry­ing him home to Brid­gend and not ven­tur­ing out in pub­lic for al­most three months.

It was a few months af­ter the World Rugby in­ves­ti­ga­tion came to its con­clu­sion in De­cem­ber, im­pos­ing its sus­pen­sion for How­ley’s ad­mis­sion that he had placed 363 bets on 1,163 matches over a fouryear pe­riod, that the for­mer Lions and Wales scrum-half dis­closed the dis­tress­ing de­tails of the al­co­holism and sub­se­quent death of his sister, Karen, an event that trig­gered his own de­scent into er­ratic, way­ward be­hav­iour.

How­ley has apol­o­gised to all man­ner of peo­ple, from his fam­ily to the Wales man­age­ment and play­ers, as well as the game at large, “hav­ing had dark thoughts and bat­tling demons” that saw him un­dergo ses­sions with a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist for three months. “It has all been trau­matic for ev­ery­one in­volved and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst en­emy,” said How­ley, who has a con­tract for 30 weeks of the year and who hopes to be able to fly to Van­cou­ver next month for his first hands-on du­ties at a three week train­ing camp, Covid19 re­stric­tions per­mit­ting.

“I feel as if I have been in lock­down longer than most. I have made my apolo­gies and I ac­cept my re­spon­si­bil­ity in it all. “There will al­ways be peo­ple who have a cer­tain view of me, but I am just de­lighted to be able now to look for­ward rather than back­wards. It has been a tough, tough chal­lenge for my fam­ily es­pe­cially, but af­ter the pro­fes­sional help I re­ceived, I now un­der­stand the rea­sons be­hind it all and I like to think I am now a bet­ter char­ac­ter, a stronger per­son. I have never even been to Canada, so a wholly dif­fer­ent place as well as life­style was very much part of the at­trac­tion. But above all, I just want to get back to a job I love.”

How­ley will be link­ing up with a for­mer team-mate in Canada head coach Kings­ley Jones, who helped to make the first ap­proach a couple of months ago.

How­ley had had only one other se­ri­ous pos­si­bil­ity of work when his own for­mer club, Wasps, made con­tact early in the year. He had been on the brink of agree­ing terms to take over from Conor O’Shea with the Italy na­tional team fol­low­ing the 2019 World Cup.

There is lit­tle doubt that for all the rep­u­ta­tional dam­age suf­fered, How­ley is held in high re­gard, as be­fits a man who won four Six Na­tions ti­tles, in­clud­ing three Grand Slams, in a 12-year coach­ing ca­reer work­ing along­side War­ren Gat­land at Wales.

There were also three tours of duty with the Lions, men­tion of which prompts the thought that the Lions tour to South Africa with Gat­land in charge again is ap­proach­ing.

“War­ren, as well as man­ager Alan Phillips, have been like fam­ily to me through all this but no, there has been ab­so­lutely no talk of the Lions,” said How­ley, who will be based in Toronto and will have a role also with Ma­jor League Rugby side Toronto Ar­rows.

“I want to de­vote all my en­er­gies to help­ing Rugby Canada, to help play­ers to make the best of them­selves.”

“I’d like to think that I have a win­ning mind­set and that I can pass on my be­lief and con­fi­dence,” he added.

“It will still be a red jer­sey, but with a dif­fer­ent badge.

“These have been un­set­tling times for a lot of peo­ple and I am truly grate­ful for all the sup­port I have re­ceived. It is time to get back to work.”

Back in the spot­light: Rob How­ley says he has over­come his demons af­ter ses­sions with a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist

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