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Wales tour to Australia
Howley hails Gatland influence
May 14, 2012
Wales coach Warren Gatland and assistant Rob Howley, Wales training session, Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand, October 7, 2011
Rob Howley insists that his boss Warren Gatland has had a huge influence on his career © Getty Images
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Caretaker coach Rob Howley has paid a glowing tribute to Warren Gatland as he prepares to lead Wales to Australia in the enforced absence of his "mentor".

Former Wales captain Howley will take charge of next month's Millennium Stadium clash against the Barbarians and three-Test Australia tour while Gatland recovers from fractures to both heels sustained after a fall at his holiday home in New Zealand last month. And he knows better than most that he has big shoes to fill having served as Gatland's assistant as Wales reached the recent Rugby World Cup semi-finals and claimed two Six Nations Grand Slams.

"The influence Warren has had on my coaching career is huge," said Howley, who today named four uncapped players among a 38-man training squad for the Baa-baas clash and Australia trip. "He has been a huge mentor to me. It's immeasurable, really. I wouldn't be sat here if it wasn't for Warren. When you look at his CV and the trophies he has won, it speaks for itself. His biggest strength is he is straight down the line - he is honest."

Howley has been in regular contact with 2013 British and Irish Lions coaching favourite Gatland, who is recuperating at home in Hamilton following the fall. "It is nice to catch up and see how he is convalescing," Howley added. "It's great to have someone you can talk to, whether it is on life or rugby. He has got his sense of humour back. He saw a surgeon last week and he is on track that things are progressing nicely."

Looking ahead to what is set to be a testing tour, that will also include a midweek clash with Super Rugby side the Brumbies, Howley added: "The litmus test is the challenge in the southern hemisphere. Coming off a Grand Slam win, we have got a great opportunity in the summer.

"It is a huge challenge to play three Tests in any southern hemisphere country. Playing against Australia is going to be a huge test for us, but one that we are looking forward to. We are in good shape.

"While we have achieved Triple Crowns and Grand Slams, you can only look at the record books and history to see how many times a national side has beaten a major southern hemisphere team away from home.

"It would be a great achievement to win against a southern hemisphere team away from home, whether that is Australia, South Africa or New Zealand. If you are going to talk about being involved in World Cup semi-finals and finals, I think winning in the southern hemisphere is something that should be on your agenda.

"England showed the way when they did it in 2003 when they beat Australia and New Zealand away from home. It's a good test of where you are as a team."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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