Newly appointed senior assistant coach Rob Howley has joined the Canadian men’s rugby team on Vancouver Island.
The former Wales coach and scrum half flew in from Britain and finished his quarantine this week in Calgary before arriving in Langford for the team’s high-performance camp that runs through Nov. 29.
Howley, who landed in B.C. on Wednesday, took part in meetings virtually while serving quarantine. The camp started Nov. 9.
“He’s been involved, albeit on a laptop,” said head coach Kingsley Jones, who played alongside Howley for Wales. “It’s great to have him here.”
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, Canadian players based overseas are not taking part. The camp is following B.C. health guidelines with fewer than 50 participants, including coaches/staff, medical staff and players.
While the squad is limited in what it can do on and off the playing field, Jones says everyone’s happy to be back. The Canadian men’s team has not played since the Rugby World Cup in Japan last October with subsequent fixtures called off.
“It’s been great. It’s great for the boys,” Jones said. “It makes you appreciate what we sometimes take for granted. The coaches included, everyone’s been full of energy, fully enthused.
“We’re really enjoying getting back out on the field. Of course, we’re still managing the situation. It’s still not a normal camp because we have restrictions we’re following but it’s great to get out on the field doing some meaningful work.”
Two newcomers on hand are Ross Braude and Jason Higgins, who both play scrum half.
Braude has played for South African youth teams, but qualifies for Canada through his father. Higgins is Irish-born and raised, but holds a Canadian passport and is currently signed with the Toronto Arrows of Major League Rugby.
Both players underwent a two-week quarantine before joining the Canadian team – Braude from South Africa and Higgins from California.
The 50-year-old Howley is back in rugby after serving a suspension arising from a betting scandal on the eve of the World Cup.
Howley was banned from the sport for 18 months – with nine months suspended – last December for betting on matches, including Wales games. Howley, Wales’s attack coach at the time, was sent home from Japan six days before Wales’s opening World Cup match in September, 2019.
The disciplinary panel overseeing his case said the betting was in part triggered by the death of his sister. Howley did not profit from the bets, instead losing some £4,000 ($6,935).
Howley, whose contract with Rugby Canada covers three years, is also serving as a consultant to the Arrows.