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CHRIS FOY: Howley paid price for scandal but he MUST be welcomed back

"Winnie Nair" (2020-06-07)


The rugby community has reacted with warmth and positivity to Rob Howley's candid interview with Sportsmail about the family traumas that led to his betting ban. Now he must be welcomed back into the sport as soon as possible.

Having laid low since being ejected from the Wales camp before the start of last year's World Cup in Japan, the 49-year-old has finally shared the story of what led to his fall from grace.

Howley gave an emotional, often harrowing account of his sister's death and the subsequent impact on himself and his closest relatives. He did not seek to excuse the illicit gambling habit which developed as a coping mechanism, but rather explain the context behind it.






Rob Howley's emotional Mail on Sunday interview has been warmly received by rugby







Howley was taken out of the Wales camp before the 2019 World Cup for a betting scandal 







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There had already been sympathy for the former Lions scrum-half, but that has increased markedly in light of this admission of human suffering and fallibility. What Howley needs next is for an even break, a fresh start and a new job.

On June 16, his period of suspension comes to an end and here's hoping that his career hiatus ends soon afterwards. 

At a time when people in all walks of life are fervently wishing for normal life to resume in the near future, such a sentiment applies more to Howley than most. His personal lockdown has gone on since September.

He has served his time and paid a heavy price for placing bets on rugby which lost him money. At the end of an interview which was raw and moving — and took courage to undertake — there was a sense that he had achieved some form of closure and could start to look ahead.






Howley detailed how the death of his sister Karen, who died in 2011, had a huge impact on him


Howley was supposed to be appointed as Italy's new head coach, but he lost that opportunity when his activities were exposed. Now he is seeking another opening, saying: 'I want to get back involved in the game.'

His career revival could take place in the West Country. Gloucester are hunting for a new head coach, but the best option would be the joint ticket with Dai Young which Wasps had in mind back in December. 

Young has vast Premiership pedigree to go with Howley's Test know-how. Young could be the front-of-house director of rugby at Kingsholm, allowing Howley to ease back in to coaching in the background, as head coach with an emphasis on attack.

The pair worked together before at Cardiff Blues. They are friends — one an ex-forward, the other an ex-back — capable of forging a complementary alliance to unleash so much potential at Gloucester in the aftermath of Johan Ackermann's abrupt departure.

This column wishes Howley well. Rugby is seeking to re-establish its core values at the moment. One of them should be forgiveness.






Howley wants to get back in the game after losing his chance at being Italy head coach 




 



Wait goes on... 

The return-to-play wait goes on and on. The mixed messages and uncertainty continue, even as the Government are hurriedly easing back on restrictions. 

Some up-beat soundbites have given way to suggestions that meaningful training can't begin until July. 

No sport is as unsuited to social distancing as this one. So while the powers-that-be in England don't appear too keen to adopt optional law changes relating to scrums and rucks and other areas of close contact, these may become a necessary step as, at this stage, it is nigh-on impossible to imagine the game re-starting in its familiar guise. 






Rugby is a sport very un-suited to social distancing, making a return to training difficult 




 



Alliance on the horizon? 

Not before time, a new, shiny, organised, logical global season framework appears to be taking shape. 

There is increasingly compelling talk of north and south aligning at long last, with next season potentially not starting until January 2021, to run parallel with fixtures on the far side of the equator. 

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend has added his voice in support of this vision, saying: 'My preference is to move to the summer to align with the southern hemisphere.' 

Amen to that. If the Six Nations and Rugby Championship proceed in tandem during March and April, with another Test window in October and November and an off-season during European mid-winter, rugby may just fulfil its commercial potential and save itself from financial oblivion.






The framework for a season is taking shape after the sport was halted amid the Six Nations







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'I felt that I'd driven my sister to her grave': In a raw... Scotland coach Gregor Townsend joins calls for summer rugby... Top referee Nigel Owens keen to see World Rugby's 'orange... Government gives green light for sport to return with racing...




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