Pat Howard is back in Leicester to visit his former team mates and club where the Australian established himself as a legend throughout a decorated playing and coaching career with the Tigers.
Howard made 20 international appearances for Australia before joining Leicester Tigers as a player in 1998 – 2001. He returned to the club as a full-time coach in 2004 after short stints in Australia and France in his final years before retiring.
He also played a starring role in the club’s first European Cup winning campaign of 2001 and, as a coach, successfully completed the double in 2007.
“We have a coaching team with a lot of knowledge and expertise ... and Pat is not here to join that coaching team"Tigers head coach Geordan Murphy
In 2008, he returned to Australia after being appointed General Manager of the Australian Rugby Union’s performance unit, before moving in to the role of General Manager/Team Performance for the Australian cricket team in 2011 – a position he held for seven years.
Speaking at Welford Road, where he join hundreds of Tigers supporters at the club’s Open Training Session, Howard clarified why he was back in the East Midlands.
“First thing I did was ask if I could play,” responded Howard, when pressed as to what brought him back to Leicester.
“Thankfully for Tigers, they have some better options in George [Ford] and Matt [Toomua] and Geordan chose to go with them for Saturday’s game,” added Howard with a laugh.
“I’m here to help out an old mate of mine in Geordan and pass on my knowledge when it comes to culture, strategy and whatever else I can answer any of his questions and pass on advice to him and the performance side of the club.
“I’m not coaching, not assisting with any team or training elements, I’m just here to share my experience and help out a good friend of mine and help out a place I hold dear to my heart.
“I’ve got some time off, which has been rare for a long time, so to come back to where I spent a lot of time as a player and coach, where two of my kids were born and a place I have fond memories from was very appealing.
“Tigers is a club with fantastic resources and after a few difficult seasons is looking for ways to reaffirm itself as a top side, which is something I’m sure the fans would be very pleased to know.”
During his time at the club as a player, Howard was team-mates with now head coach Geordan Murphy and later coached the Ireland international as the club's backs and head coach.
“I’ve got some time off, which has been rare for a long time, so to come back to where I spent a lot of time as a player and coach, where two of my kids were born and a place I have fond memories from was very appealing."Pat Howard
When asked about the return of his team mate to Leicester, Murphy put to bed any rumours that Howard was joining the coaching team or playing any role as a coach in his one week visiting his former home town.
“I have the utmost respect for Pat and what he’s done in our game, in cricket as an administrator, as well as in business and life," said Murphy, when asked about Howard's attendance at the Open Training Session.
“To get someone across with his experience and knowledge is invaluable and would be silly to not do.
“He’s here as a friend, a former team mate and to just cast an eye over things across the whole set up at Oval Park and answer questions myself or anyone might have around making better use of all the great things we have available to us here.
“We have a coaching team with a lot of knowledge and expertise, which we added to with Mike Ford to just provide some clarity given we are a younger group of coaches than most, and Pat is not here to join that coaching team.
“He’s here for a week, as a favour to a friend, and it’s not an official appointment and he’s not the first former player or coach to visit the club and share their thoughts and won’t be the last I hope.”