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Despite the Knock-Backs - The Autobiography of Lynn Howells
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Lynn Howells, formerly coach of the Celtic Warriors and one of Graham Henry's assistant coaches during the 1999 World Cup, has had more than his fair share of betrayals during rugby union's transition from amateur to professional status. This is his story.
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'Rugby is great. The players don't wear helmets or padding; they just beat the living daylights out of each other and then go for a beer. I love that.' Joe Theismann, American football player. That is a sentiment that Lynn Howells would probably share. A product of Maerdy in the Rhondda valley, he came to Rugby 'relatively late' in his life, when he was 18. Club Rugby was popular in many of the towns and villages of south Wales, and, although turned down by Tylorstown, he was taken on by Treherbert in 1968 and after a successful year made the Boys Club for Wales side. Rugby Union was very different then, an amateur game, and players did not move far from home. He moved on to what became his favourite haunt, the great Pontypridd Rugby Club, and throughout his life Ponty has been close to his heart. Later, he suffered a knee injury but after recovering he continued to play for teams in the area until a back injury ended his playing career. During one season at Whitchurch, he went through his first coaching exams and gained his level one coaching badge. 'I got the taste for coaching, and enjoyed it.' The rest could be said to be history, for Lynn Howells has had a very distinguished career as a coach for many eminent clubs and at national level. However, this book is more than a record of Lynn Howells's successes and failures during long services as a coach for the Welsh Rugby Union and others. It is a frank and outspoken history of the game, by an insider at the very centre of events, during those crucial years when the amateur game became professional, and moved into wider spheres -- the UK and the world. Lynn Howells begins the book with the chapter 'They Killed Valleys Rugby', and the opening two words are 'The bastards.' These are his recollections of the critical years for Welsh Rugby in the late 1990s and the early 2000s. No holds barred and with some underlying bitterness and regret, he traces in detail the events of that time and the managers and players who played pivotal roles. He goes on to recall his role in the early years of regional Rugby, a time when Pontypridd and Bridgend became the Warriors -- but for just a year, after which, despite many successes, the WRU decided to have just four regions in Wales: Cardiff Blues, Llanelli Scarlets, the Ospreys (Neath and Swansea) and Newport Dragons. With occasional blips, Lynn Howells's coaching career soared, moving to coach Cardiff Blues and as Head Coach with the Welsh squad. He travelled the world with the team and shared in their good and bad times, but in 2003 he lost his club job with Cardiff and his job for Wales. Angry and low, he was done with rugby in Wales, but was offered a job by Leonessa in Italy, where he spent two seasons, then moving on to coach Edinburgh, where after some difficult and unpleasant events his contract was not renewed. Four very happy years at Doncaster followed before the family returned to Maerdy. But Lynn's career was not over. As well as being asked to coach the Barbarians, he was offered a role assessing level four coaches for the WRU. After the Barbarians match, Lynn Howells was offered a job as technical director for the Romanian national Rugby team where he is now director of Rugby and has a contract which could be extended to 2015. He ends with a summary of his opinion on some aspects of rugby in Wales now and his excitement at coaching Romania towards a World Cup tournament. This is a book for rugby aficionados as well as those whose grasp of the game is more tenuous, because it is a honest record of the life of one of the stalwarts of the game, who saw little of the limelight but was a vital part of the team. Beryl Thomas It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council. Gellir defnyddio'r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatad Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru. -- Welsh Books Council

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