Rugby Union: Good thing Howley

Cardiff 45 Rugby Canada 22
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The Independent Online
YOU cannot bet against Rob Howley becoming the next Welsh captain even if you want to. So certain are the bookmakers that the Lions scrum- half will take over from the unfortunate Gwyn Jones as the new Welsh leader that they decided to suspend their book at 2.16pm yesterday.

Howley had been quoted as the 7-2 third favourite behind Scott Gibbs and Scott Quinnell as recently as Friday. The two Scotts were leading the race at 6-4, while others quoted were Allan Bateman at 10-1, Ieuan Evans at 12-1 and Gareth Llewellyn and Neil Jenkins at 16-1.

But yesterday a spokesman for Jack Brown Bookmakers in Cardiff revealed they had decided to suspend betting "because we have had an avalanche of money on Rob Howley and suspect there could be some insider knowledge. It seems that someone knows something that we don't."

Howley had not been tempted to back himself or any other candidate in the race, but pledged to give his wholehearted support to whoever gets the job for next month's Test against Italy and the Five Nations' Championship thereafter.

"I haven't had a bet on who will become the new Welsh captain. But if I was offered the captaincy I would accept it as a great honour," Howley said.

"It's down to the Welsh management team, and Kevin Bowring and Terry Cobner know what is required. We've been building Team Wales over the last two years and the spirit between all the members of the squad is very good.

"Scott Gibbs and Gareth Llewellyn are just two of the dark horses for the captaincy and if either of them got it they would have my full backing. That was only the second time I've captained Cardiff. The first was in a win over Newport last season, so I've still got a 100 per cent record."

Howley certainly had his leadership qualities tested to the full as Cardiff got off to a faltering start in the international phase of the Welsh Rugby Union Challenge Trophy. They looked in danger of losing when they conceded two tries in the space of two minutes to Canada's livewire, uncapped flanker Rob Robson before half-time.

That meant the home side, who like their opponents fielded 10 internationals, went into the interval 19-16 down. Howley took it upon himself to spark a major revival and he had a hand in three of his side's four second-half tries.

The scrum-half was to the fore in regaining the lead as he linked with Gareth Thomas to send the centre through for the first of his second-half tries. Later he helped Thomas notch his second with a darting run and kick and chase to complete the revival. Thomas looks like he is enjoying himself at his new club after his big- money move from Bridgend.

In between those two tries the back-rower Emyr Lewis powered over and the outside- half, Lee Jarvis, helped to hoist his points tally to 25 with a try. He also converted four of Cardiff's five tries and kicked four penalties.

Cardiff: J Thomas; L Jarvis, G Thomas, G Jones, N Walker; P Williams, R Howley (capt); P Booth (A Lewis 64), H Bevan, L Mustoe, T Rees (K Stewart 76), D Jones, P Young, E Lewis, O Williams.

Rugby Canada: K Kawaguchi; C Smith, J Hall, S Bryan (K Nichols 70), J Pagano; B Ross (capt), J Graf; H Toews, M Cardinal, J Thiel (R Bice 50- 64), C Whittaker, A Healy, D Baugh, I Gordon, R Robson.

Referee: Nigel Whitehouse (Swansea).