The second-row returns to the international stage after overcoming the shoulder injury he suffered against Argentina in the autumn.
He lines up alongside Sam Warburton in the replacements for the Rome clash on Saturday.
And Howley, a two-time Lions tourist as a player, reckons the duo can have a considerable bearing from the bench.
"The one thing we're pleased about is our impact and strength from the bench in the last two games," said Howley.
"With Sam and Alun Wyn on the bench that is going to be important again.
"We've seen in games that the last 20 or 25 minutes are key so their experience will be a priceless commodity.
"We wanted to wait and see how both of them were physically but they are fully fit and have taken an active part in training.
"International rugby is about 23 players and that impact off the bench is something you need out in Italy.
"Strength in depth off your bench is crucial and will be on Saturday against a formidable pack who rely on their first phase a hell of a lot.
"That's a challenge for some of those players that they come on in a game and make a really good impact.
"It's key for those players to challenge the starting XV by continually coming on, making that impact and stepping up to the mark.
Ryan Jones, another former Lion, will captain Wales but he insists it does not change his role within the squad.
"It's a role I've been in and around for quite a few years now.
"You learn to do it your way but like last week for me it will be about focusing on my role and letting the captaincy take care of itself.
"It is about functioning as a six first then we'll see where we go from there.
"It's only a title, isn't it. I'm just happy to be involved. The role and tag that comes with that - so be it. It makes no difference to me whether your captain game by game or for the duration.
"It's about you as a player preparing and contributing to this team. I want to be part of a successful national team, so whatever role that requires from me, I'm more than happy with that."