19 May, 13:07
Ian Keatley is one of four Munster players who will travel with Emerging Ireland to Tblisi at the start of June.
The 33 year old takes over from Paul O’Connell to become just the second overseas player to captain the squad. Howlett is also the first back to be nominated as squad captain in the professional era.
Howlett who has captained the match day side on a number of occasions in the past and who will lead the team in the game against London Irish at Musgrave Park (7pm) tonight said, “I think it’s such a great honour to have been asked to captain this squad."
"It truly is one of the highlights of my career."
"I know I’ve got big boots to fill following Paul, Axel, Mick Galwey and Jim Williams."
"And I’m also aware of the number of leaders in this squad, people well capable of doing this job and that makes my appointment all the more worthy and humbling.”
The former All Black has played 94 competitive matches for Munster since making his debut against Clermont Auvergne in January 2008 and is the current squad's leading try scorer (32).
He takes over from O’Connell who has been squad captain since 2006/2007 and O'Connell was fulsome in his praise. “I think we’re unbelievably fortunate to have a player of Doug’s calibre to step in. He brings a wealth of experience and an exemplary work ethic to the job that can only benefit Munster Rugby in the season ahead.”
Explaining his reason for stepping aside O'Connell continued. " I’ve been squad captain for six seasons and just felt it was time to step back and let someone else assume the role. With a new coaching structure in place, I thought the timing was right."
Head of the new structure, coach Rob Penney said. “The process to select a new captain has been on-going for the past number of weeks and involved discussion with players and staff."
"It’s never easy to replace a player of Paul O’Connell’s stature but then again, as Paul said, we are indeed fortunate to be able to turn to Doug to take over the role."
"I don’t think I need to expound on the qualities that Doug brings, you people in Munster will have seen first hand his contribution over the past number of seasons. I’m just delighted to have him as squad captain. I know he’ll do a first rate job."