Howley parks Lions speculation for Wales

Rob Howley’s complete focus is on Wales this season — but he could also be part of the British and Irish Lions coaching staff in New Zealand next summer.

Howley, a former Lions Test player who filled Lions coaching support roles in South Africa seven years ago and then during the successful 2013 Australia tour, takes charge of Wales with Warren Gatland heading up Lions business.

Gatland is due to name his support team for the New Zealand mission on December 7, with Howley among a number of coaches likely to be in the frame for a 10-match expedition that begins on June 3.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the experiences in 2009 and 2013,” Howley said. “There is no doubt that the experiences as a player and a coach — that six to eight-week period with the Lions — you come back and our (Wales) environment no doubt benefits from those experiences you have as a coach.

“And no doubt, that will happen post-2017, with Warren coming back.”

Howley’s priority during the next 10 months will be Wales’ four-Test autumn series and then the RBS 6 Nations Championship, with an added significance of holding a strong world ranking position ahead of next year’s 2019 World Cup pool draw.

Wales found themselves in the same 2015 World Cup group as England and Australia, being handed a ferociously-tough draw on that occasion largely because they had slipped down the global standings.

“Team Wales comes first and foremost,” Howley added. “From a coaching, management and conditioning perspective, it’s about Wales for the next 10 months.

“I am so keen on our home record. In the last three-and-a-half years it’s about 70 per cent (success).

“In the next 10 months, we have got six home games, and you look at the world rankings and what is at stake for everyone involved, we want to better our home record. It’s a huge carrot and motivation for the players.

“We need to improve our home record, and if we better that in terms of the 70 per cent, I am sure from a world rankings perspective, we will be in good shape.

“My role for the next 10 months from a Welsh perspective is that we are as successful as we can be, and that’s the challenge.”

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