(Photo: David Rogers / Getty Images)
By Rob Cole
Rob Howley has accepted an apology from Sean O’Brien over his outburst on the coaching on the British & Irish Lions tour in the summer.
The two men finally caught up on the phone nine days ago and settled their differences. Now all the Wales attack coach has to do is speak to Lee Byrne to get to the bottom of his recent claims in his autobiography about the way he was treated by Howley.
“With regard to the allegations made by Lee Byrne, I dispute them and I am taking advice,” Howley told The Rugby Paper.
“As regards Sean O’Brien, we spoke on the phone the Friday before last, talked for a good 20 minutes. He apologised and we now move on.
“I have the greatest respect for Sean O’Brien and I thought he was outstanding on the Lions tour. His comments are tomorrow’s fish and chip paper and it will all soon be forgotten.
“I was obviously disappointed and felt that the forum we had been a part of for seven weeks on tour would have been a better opportunity to raise those comments to the coaching team or with me.
“New Zealand was very different to the two previous tours and the midweek games challenged us as a group of coaches far differently. Having worked with Johnny (Sexton) and Owen (Farrell) in Australia, any sensible coach would have used their experience and included them in the decision making process.
“From my perspective, we tried to empower the players. I had the opportunity to sit down with Owen, Johnny and Dan Biggar in the lead-up to the tour when their clubs got knocked out in the semi-finals and we were able to put in place a lot of foundations.
“We only had two coaching days within the week on tour. When you look at the preparation time and what we achieved, I’m very proud as a coach to come away with what we did.”
Now back in situ with Wales, Howley has to help prepare a squad missing the Lions trio of Sam Warburton, George North and Ross Moriarty through injury, and experienced midfielders Jamie Roberts and Scott Williams through non-selection, to face the top three Rugby Championship sides and Georgia.
The clock is also ticking on his time with Wales. This summer he announced he will be leaving with head coach Warren Gatland after the 2019 World Cup, when he hopes to put to good use all the experience he has gained over an 11-year period as an international coach on the club front. Howley was one of head coach Gatland’s first coaching appointments in 2008 and has twice been caretaker coach when Gatland has been in charge of the Lions, leading Wales to the Six Nations title in 2013.
“I love the game of rugby, I am very passionate and I think I can add a bit of value and that’s what I want to do,” said Howley
“It is on a bucket list of mine that I want to coach in the Premiership or France. Whether that opportunity comes along, who knows, but I’d like to be a head coach somewhere.
“I’ve enjoyed immensely being the interim head coach and the experiences I’ve had here with Wales. I thoroughly enjoyed the championship in 2013, culminating in the England game, but I just think it is the right time.
“I’ve learned a lot and now I would like to put that to good use at club level rather than international level. I’m 47 now and I would like to go away first and then come back.
“I need to examine my own values and look at what I need to do. Maybe I can come back one day and do the job that Warren has done.”