Howley: “It’s the right moment to be part of Canadian Rugby”
Robert Howley likes what he sees out of his new club.
While the former British and Irish Lion has only officially been on the job for less than a week, the newest member of the Toronto Arrows coaching staff doesn’t hesitate when asked to describe the potential Major League Rugby’s lone Canadian side possesses.
“When you look at the 2020 season, it was such a shame the way it ended based on how the Arrows were playing,” said Howley. “They were so well-placed; they were top of the tree. If you look at their stats, everyone sees how strong they are. They’ve benefitted from a culture perspective, bringing the team dynamics together so quickly from their amateur roots with the Ontario Blues. I think the Arrows are more than halfway there, and they certainly proved that, in terms of how far they’ve come in such a short time.”
Howley, who will consult with the club while also serving as a senior assistant coach for Canada’s senior men’s team, notes that the dual role has him motivated to hit the ground running on his Canadian adventure.
“I’m so excited to work with Canada and the Arrows, and the two roles go hand-in-hand. If you look at Toronto’s roster, you’ll see several Canada under-20 players, Canada ‘A’ players, and senior Canada players. The opportunity to apply my learnings and experience as a coach from the last 12 years at the national level, and the ability to work with transitional players – players who have come out of university, who want to play for Canada, and they have to go through their own player pathway and play for the Toronto Arrows – to help and engage with these players at that age is a priceless time for a coach.”
Howley hopes to use his experience to accelerate the development process for those transitional players, and in doing so, to help improve Canada’s international standing and fulfill the nation’s goal of Rugby World Cup success in 2023, while also aiding the Arrows’ quest to supply the Canadian national team with a regular pipeline of strong talent, and in doing so, ultimately earning an MLR Shield.
“I’ve got a love and passion for coaching, and I missed it over the last 12 months. To be given the opportunity by Rugby Canada and Toronto Arrows is something which I’m very grateful for, and to resume my coaching career in Canada is an exciting next step for me. I keep being told, whether it’s Toronto or Vancouver, that they’re two fantastic places in the world to visit. I’ve never been to Canada in my playing career or as a coach, so it will represent a bit of lifestyle change compared to other cities I’ve lived in, but in terms of experiencing Canada, Toronto and Vancouver certainly won’t disappoint.”
The Welshman describes how he chatted with several of his friends who’ve represented Canada, including Gareth Rees, John Tait, and Dan Baugh, before making his decision to cross the Atlantic.
“They’ve told me about the culture of Canada, in terms of its players, that they’ll run through brick walls for you, and that they’re brilliant to work with. It feels the right moment, this moment in time, to be a part of Canadian rugby, and Toronto Arrows are a big, big part of that excitement.”
As Howley remains at his home in Wales, his initial list of duties with the club has included analyzing hours and hours of footage from matches and training sessions, and providing his feedback to his fellow members of the coaching staff.
“We’ve hopped on Zoom calls pretty regularly over the past couple of weeks, and the conversation has largely been focused on sharing ideas as we prepare for the 2021 season. Mark, Chris, Peter, Aaron, and everyone at the club have been very welcoming.”
While Howley will join up with the club on the ground in the coming months, he’s been champing at the bit as he works remotely.
“The Arrows are in a really good position. I’ve been tracking the number of signings they’ve made over the past couple of months, and there’s a fair amount of experience in there, particularly Canadian experience. I’m just so excited to get started, and I’m looking forward to working with the coaches and the players as we set our sights on a championship.”
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