Howley leaves Wales for 'new buzz' of Wasps

By Mike Sinclair
Monday 27 January 2014 03:52

Rob Howley, the Welsh scrum-half who has spent his entire club career in the Principality, has signed a three-year contract with Wasps.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge," the 31-year-old said yesterday. "It is an opportunity to play in the best league in the northern hemisphere and it will provide me with a new buzz. I'm here to win medals, to win the Premiership and to show Wasps the commitment they have shown to me."

Wasps, who have agreed to pay an undisclosed fee, spent five weeks negotiating to sign Howley, who has previously been linked with moves to Leicester and Bath. He has played his club rugby at Bridgend and Cardiff, but will be moving to London with his wife and two young daughters.

Howley, who played a record 59 times for Wales up to the end of last season, when he retired from international rugby, was troubled last season by a knee injury which was the result of the non-stop demands of club and international rugby, but he insisted yesterday that he is fully fit. He came through an exhaustive six-hour medical before completing his move.

"The reason I gave up international rugby is because the one thing you lose out on is your family environment," said Howley, whose second daughter was born this year just before his final appearance for Wales against Scotland in the final match of the Six Nations' championship at the Millennium Stadium.

Howley's international retirement is a bonus for Wasps but their club chairman, Chris Wright, said: "It wouldn't have made any difference. We would have signed Rob either way. You need to have star players and what he has done for Wales and the British Lions has no parallel. Rob is probably the best scrum-half in the northern hemisphere.

"He has extremely fast hands, a great pass and on his day is a real match-winner. We are thrilled Rob has chosen to come to London Wasps and I am confident he will help us win some honours. We struggled for a while last season and we don't want to struggle again."

Jonah Lomu has been dropped from the All Blacks side for Saturday's opening Tri-Nations game against the defending champions, Australia.

The winger, who is not even on the bench, is a surprise exclusion from John Mitchell's 22-man squad, with Caleb Ralph and Mark Robinson the preferred options. Lomu's Wellington Hurricanes team-mate Tana Umaga has also been dropped because of a knee injury.

Even in Lomu's absence the All Blacks still have three players in the back line who boast more than a half-century of caps. The half-back Justin Marshall will be playing in his 57th Test, Christian Cullen his 55th and Andrew Mehrtens his 60th.

Thirteen of the starting XV come from the Super 12 champions, Canterbury Crusaders, with a further two, the full-back Ben Blair and the utility back Daryl Gibson, on the bench.

Blair, who was named as injury cover in New Zealand's Tri-Nations squad of 26, has been included in place of Leon MacDonald who has a head injury.

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