Lions tourist and coach Rob Howley has become the latest member of Warren Gatland’s backroom staff to commit to Wales.
Howley, who was a Lion in 1997 and 2001 and again as a coach in 2009, has joined Gatland and defence coach Shaun Edwards in signing a new-long term deal to remain with the Welsh Rugby Union.
The former scrum-half has signed on for another five years despite speculation linking him with a move to join Lions legend Sir Ian McGeechan at Bath or a switch across the city of Cardiff back to the Blues.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed the time I have spent with the national team so far so I am delighted that work can now continue at least until 2016,” said Howley, who joined the Welsh national set up as attack coach in 2008.
“As a coaching team we have achieved a lot of our aims in recent years but there are still a lot of exciting and challenging opportunities ahead.
“I am a proud Welshman and anyone who works with me knows I want nothing more than success for Wales.
“The Rugby World Cup proved to us as a coaching team that we are heading in the right direction and that just inspires me for the future.”
Howley has signed on for a year more than both Gatland and Edwards, ensuring that at least one member of the current coaching staff will remain in place after the next World Cup.
The 59-times capped 41-year-old began his coaching career under Gatland at London Wasps and the Wales head coach is convinced Howley’s commitment to the Welsh cause will have long-lasting benefits for the World Cup semi-finalists.
“When I asked Rob to join the coaching team in Wales I knew the level of professionalism and skill he would bring with him and that has proved to be the case,” said Gatland.
“He is already an accomplished coach, but I know the experience and opportunities he will have in the years ahead will improve him even more.
“There is a lot of hard work ahead, but the coaches around me have grown in stature over our time together and the continuity we now look forward to will help us achieve our aims.
“At this level we are often criticised if our performance doesn’t meet outside expectations but the biggest endorsement I can give of Rob is that, after the Lions experience in 2009, a high number of players commented to me that he was the best backs coach they had worked with, which speaks volumes.”