From one All Blacks legend to another, fly-half Dan Carter yesterday paid a touching tribute to Munster captain and former team-mate Doug Howlett, who on Tuesday announced his retirement with immediate effect due to a shoulder injury.
New Zealand’s all-time leading try scorer Howlett, 34, and its record points scorer Carter, 31, played 24 Tests together between 2003 and 2007, after which the winger left New Zealand for Munster.
Howlett’s enforced retirement after five and a half seasons in Ireland did not go unnoticed in his homeland, however, and Carter, All Black No. 1034 paid tribute to No. 992 on Twitter yesterday, posting a picture of the pair together celebrating another All Blacks success.
“Congrats on an awesome career Dougie #AllBlacksAndMunsterLegend” read the @DanCarter tweet accompanying the picture and he also posted on a separate tweet: “Doug Howlett’s retiring. One of the best wingers/finishers I’ve ever played with #tryscoringmachine #topbloke.”
The latter post was then retweeted by South Africa wing Bryan Habana who added: “#topwinger.”
There was another reminder of the physical toll rugby can take when London Irish and Scotland centre Joe Ansbro was yesterday forced into retirement. The 27-year-old former Northampton Saints player suffered a C1 fracture in his neck last August during the Exiles’ pre-season friendly with Munster at Musgrave Park.
Despite extensive rehabilitation since the injury, Ansbro was advised on medical grounds to retire.
Meanwhile Connacht have signed New Zealand U20 captain Jake Heenan on a three-year deal.
The former Whangarei Boys’ High School First XV captain went on to sign for Auckland and was a member of the Blues development programme.
“I first saw Jake when he was 17. He played for the Blues Under-18 team when they won the national competition and, even then, I could see what a natural leader and genuine team player he was,” said new Connacht coach Pat Lam “He brought those leadership skills, as well as his physicality, to the U20 World Championship last summer with the Baby Blacks. Jake is highly regarded back in New Zealand and it is a real coup for Connacht to catch him. I’m very much looking forward to working with him when he arrives here in early July.”
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