Grim news from the Munster camp: Doug Howlett’s achilles tendon requires surgery and he will miss the rest of the season.
Howlett had continued his excellent try-scoring form from last season into this one. Going back to September 2010, he had scored 18 tries in 38 appearances for Munster.
It’s not just his try-scoring abilities that they will miss. Howlett is by a distance the most experienced winger in the league, and technically beyond reproach. Allied to a high work-rate in attack was a great degree of wisdom in defense; he was positionally astute when the opposition team had the ball, and it’s difficult to recall him ever being found out of position.
To connoisseurs of the wing position, his play had an enormous amount to recommend itself. He took great lines of support, had superb discipline in keeping depth, and rarely died with the ball. While he may have lost a step of pace from his days with the All Blacks, his finishing skills were undimmed.
Another element of his game that endeared him to Munster fans was his crunching tackling. He regularly buried his opposite man with textbook technique and a surprising amount of power for a guy who wasn’t physically an enormous specimen. This is a huge loss for Munster, already struggling with injuries to David Wallace, Felix Jones, Keith Earls and Jerry Flannery.
Another cruel blow for Munster! Doug is probably the best foreign player to join an Irish club in the professional era. His performances first with the All Blacks and then with Munster have been of the highest standard – threatening defences; keeping the ball alive and stunning finishing!
Its only a game – but some players leave an indelible mark; Doug Howlett is one of them. Here’s wishing him a full recovery to continue enjoying sport and hopefully some rugby!
It’s going take every ounce of his famed professionalism to go through the rehab process. At his age and presumably with his retirement nest egg secured he could be forgiven if he gave the game away. He owes Munster and Irish rugby nothing- he has been sensational.
He has recently turned 33, and is on a one-year rolling deal with Munster [as are all NIQ players in Irish provinces, apparently. An eight-month lay-off would see him return in time for the start of next season, so it’s a difficult call.
Munster are by no means loaded with wingers [Earls, Johne Murphy, Denis Hurley, Simon Zebo, Luke O’Dea] and Howlett has been the best they’ve ever had by a distance. If he decides to continue, I think that Munster would do well to snap him up again.
Earls is both injury prone and subject to international duties; Murphy isn’t a particularly snappy try-scorer, Hurley has a BRUTAL try scoring record [6 tries in 80 games for an outside back!], O’Dea is still in the academy and Zebo has potential but is still very raw.