Monday, 16 November 2009

Lynn's coming home for Ponty cup clash

You could forgive Doncaster Knights director of rugby Lynn Howells for casting his mind forward to Round 2 of the British and Irish Cup, when the English side travel to Pontypridd in Pool D.

Because it was at Sardis Road that the former Wales caretaker and assistant coach became a folkhero as he guided Neil Jenkins and co to league and cup titles.

But before the Knights head to the gateway to the south Wales valleys, they have to kick-off their British and Irish Cup campaign at home against Scottish Premier champions, Ayr.

Howells also has close links to Scottish rugby, having coached the Edinburgh professional side and there is a strong contingent from north of the border in the Knights ranks.

Included among the Scottish clan is Steve McCall, who has successfully been transferred to full back this season with dramatic effect. His monster kicking has played a big part in recent good form and the player that Howells first spotted as a teenager when he was working in the Scottish capital is now blossoming into a huge asset.

"I brought Stuart down with me from the Edinburgh Academy and they are still keeping an eye on him. We also have Ali Warnock and Stevie Lawrie in our squad, who came down with me from Scotland," said Howells.

"But we also have quite a strong Welsh contingent as well. Brett Davey, a
Pontypridd legend, is coaching alongside me and we have another ex-Sardis Road favourite, Tongan prop Ngalu Tau, in our pack.

"He got a terrific reception from the Ponty fans when we played down there in a pre-season friendly. That game ended in a 22-22 draw.

"This time it will be a different ball game and I'm expecting a typically warm reception both on and off the field. It is going to be a great experience for our players to play in a tournament like this.

"Cross border competitions take you out of your comfort zone and are good for both coaches and players to develop their skills. I can't wait, especially as our Pool also contains another of my former clubs, Cardiff.

"I was in on the ground floor of the Heineken Cup with
Pontypridd back in 1995 and I can see the British and Irish Cup perhaps being the start of a fully blown league at this level within the four countries in years to come."

The game at
Pontypridd on Friday, 27 November, will give Howells the chance to congratulate one of his former star pupils, ex-Wales scrum half Paul John, on his two recent successes - steering Wales to the Rugby World Cup sevens title and being named this week as the Sports Council for Wales' Coach of the Year.

"Paul is such a quite and unassuming guy, but he really is developing into a first-rate coach. I'm delighted to see him enjoying so much success, but hardly surprised," said Howells.


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