Lesser teams deserve their chance - Howlett

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Lynn McConnell     15 Sep 2015     Getty Images

Howlett, who last played for New Zealand at the 2007 Rugby World Cup where he scored the last of his 49 Test tries, told the Irish Times that he knows how many of those smaller nations feel as a result of his own experience.

Having enjoyed the benefits of playing at the top level with the All Blacks, Howlett found himself facing his old team-mates in 2008 when Munster played a midweek game against the touring New Zealanders.

The threat of being humiliated was the feeling he took into the match, and it was that feeling that demonstrated just what can happen in a game that the All Blacks only won four minutes from the end after Munster had been leading 16-13.

"We were just written off. Nobody was giving us a chance," he said.

"I don't think I felt more alive in a match. I guess there was the fear of getting humiliated, of getting trashed. And we all know that result.

"We were within a whisker of a win. Given an opportunity you don't know. You just don't know until you are in that environment and given that opportunity," he said.

The lesser lights of the game deserved their chance. It was a reward for qualifying for the tournament, he said.

"They deserve the right to be there and to test themselves against the best in the world."

The sides went through their build-up, the anticipation, the preparation just like any other athlete and if there was time to feel sorry for the opposition it was after the game because the players in the dominant side were also playing to push their case for future selection.

Howlett said if sides took pity on their weaker opposition they dropped their focus and also became susceptible to injury.

"You're playing the game as you see it. Sure there might be moments where you might be able to take your foot off the accelerator. But it brings in danger, injury, a lack of timing and cohesiveness.

"You are playing for your position regardless of the opposition. You are playing to a game play. You are trying to impose your game plan and the score almost becomes irrelevant," he said.