Ivan Conway kindly invited me to a dinner, one of the events for beneficiary Luke Wright, with All Black Doug Howlett. Howlett with 49 tries in 62 games is the leading scorer of the All Blacks and one of a handful to have won trophies in the North and South hemisphere: the Super 14 and Heineken Cup for Munster. He has set up home there. For a man involved in controversy after a bar brawl in New Zealand and damage to a car in the car park of the Hilton after their loss to France, I found him to be relaxed, smiling handsome fellow who set up his his own charity foundation the Doug Howlett Outreach.
He was more optimistic about England’s chances than I am but he said that as a youngish group they have yet to learn from hardship. Clearly the All Blacks start as favourites and any team with Richie McCaw and Dan Carter should be but every World Cup they seem to be favourites and in most they choke. I have a sneaking fancy for South Africa.
Somebody from the floor in the q & a said he had grown up with Colin Meads, Brian Lochore and Don Clarke. How would they have performed in the modern game? Doug Howlett replied that it’s not so easy to compare eras but one thing that has changed is size. He at six foot one inch could have played as lock in the sixties. With respect to him, I reckon Colin Meads would have been a great player in any era. Daphne Colthard who said he was the dishiest rugby player she had ever seen made us all laugh by saying loudly in her experience size was never so important – it’s how you perform in second phase!