Howlett looking to mark international comeback

Doug Howlett, dropped by the All Blacks for the summer Tests against the British & Irish Lions, hopes to crown his international comeback with victory over England at Twickenham on Saturday. [more]

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Doug Howlett, dropped by the All Blacks for the summer Tests against the British & Irish Lions, hopes to crown his international comeback with victory over England at Twickenham on Saturday.

Coach Graham Henry credited Howlett with playing "the best rugby of his life" when he chose him ahead of Rico Gear, scorer of a hat-trick of tries in the 41-3 victory over Wales.

The 27-year-old right-wing-three-quarter said: "It’s funny how people say you are coming into form when you are getting a lot of the ball.

"As a winger there’s only so much you can do when you aren’t getting it."

Howlett addressed his summer rejection by recapturing his form playing for Auckland and is now set for his 50th international cap.

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"The way Auckland play with an expansive game suited me," he said.

The All Blacks are currently blessed with world-class wings, including Gear, Sitiveni Sivivatu, who will be on the left-wing at Twickenham and Joe Rokocoko, who has had to settle for a place on the bench, but Howlett never believed his international career was over.

"No, not at all," he said. "I felt I had a lot more to offer the All Blacks and it was just a matter of time to prove myself again.

"There are tough times you go through as a player, usually when you are exhausted and, more often than not, it’s on the tail of an injury when you are not quite playing how you want to and the games keep coming.

"Towards the end of last year I was tired and carrying a few niggles but you have to soldier on."

Howlett admitted he feels for Gear but he said: "He will get another opportunity. Tries aren’t everything. It’s 14 guys who put that last guy over the line.

"I can only do what I do and I was happy with what I did against Ireland last week. But I leave the tough business to the coaches."

He expects England to provide tougher opposition than Wales and Ireland, who were both comprehensively beaten even though New Zealand fielded completely different starting line-ups in the two games.

"England are on good form and their win over Australia will be good for them.

"This weekend will be a big test for us, one we can measure ourselves by," said Howlett who is looking forward to renewing his friendly rivalry with England’s recalled World Cup-winning left-wing Ben Cohen.

"We go back a long way and we are good friends off the field so it’s good to see Ben back," he added.

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