It’s a tremendous coup for the club to secure the services of the 25-year-old attacking 15 who made 64 senior appearances for Worcester in seven years at Sixways and this season represented England Sevens in the World Series in Dubai and Hong Kong.
Howard burst onto the Premiership scene at Worcester during the 2012/13 season and made 16 first-team appearances while still part of the Club’s Academy set-up.
He made his Premiership debut at the age of 19 against Leicester Tigers at Welford Road in September 2012 before marking his first start with two tries against Bizkaia Gernika RT in the European Challenge Cup the following month.
His impressive form led to an England Under 20 call-up and he was a key part of the side which claimed the Six Nations and Junior World Championship titles in 2013.
He was handed a first-team contract ahead of the 2014/15 campaign and became one of the standout performers in Warriors' Championship-winning season and was named Supporters’ Young Player of the Year after scoring seven tries in 23 appearances.
However, his first team opportunities have been limited since Worcester’s return to the Premiership, and he appeared just six times for them last season before spending a short period out on loan to Birmingham Moseley.
“I knew my time at Warriors was coming to an end and whilst exploring other options, I was put in touch with Gavin and Kobus through a mutual contact,” Howard explained. “After meeting with them I was extremely impressed with not only the journey the club has been on already, but also the vision that is in place for the future.”
He continued: “I have been studying for a degree in Politics at the University of Birmingham alongside full-time rugby for the last three years so I’ve always had one eye on the future. Of the options I had available to me post-Warriors, the opportunity to progress professionally off the field at Secure Trading, whilst also being at a thriving, ambitious club on it was something which really excited me. I am also friends with Joey Carlisle following our time at Worcester together so he was able to answer any further questions I had and ultimately helped with my decision.”
After a frustrating last couple of years at Sixways, Howard can’t wait to get started at his new club. “I am completely relishing the new challenge,” he enthused. “The last couple of seasons at Worcester left me a little bit disillusioned with full-time rugby. I dealt with things that I didn’t really agree with and that I also knew I wouldn’t be able to change. I think I reached a point when you have been with the same coaches for a period of time they form perceptions which ultimately are very difficult to change, regardless of how you play.
“I will look back at my time at the Warriors with fond memories, as I was able to achieve many of my childhood dreams there. Ultimately the experiences over the last couple of years whilst leaving me somewhat disillusioned, have also made me hungry for further success in the game. I know I have what it takes to play at Premiership level so certainly harbour ambitions to be there again one day.”
He continued: “Whilst I have dropped a couple of levels to join Elthamians, and had options to remain higher, I have come here with the team's ambition and my own ambitions strongly in tact. I hope to be able to help the club achieve its ambitions whilst hopefully being an integral part of the journey. The off-field development offered by Elthamians is also something that is very important to me and further removes you from the bubble of full time rugby, which can completely take over your life at times! I genuinely feel this is the best place for me to develop both on and off the field and I can’t wait to get started and hopefully prove my worth to the guys as soon as possible!”
However, Howard is under no illusions about the size of the challenge awaiting him in National One. “I played two games for Moseley at the start of last season and Moseley actually beat us (Worcester) in a pre season game so I knew already how competitive the sides are in this league,” he said. “It’s obviously going to be even more competitive this year with a group of teams all with their sights set on promotion. But I am looking forward to the challenge and can’t wait to get started.”
A dangerous counter-attacking full-back who likes to play with pace in the wide channels, Howard admits OEs' style of rugby was another factor in his decision to join. “I knew before coming here that the style of play would suit me,” he said. “I love to get the ball in my hands and have a crack. My time with England Sevens has certainly developed and strengthened these skills. So hopefully I can continue in the same vein this season and I have a good impact when the ball gets out to me.”
Elthamians Director of Rugby Gavin Lach believes Howard’s arrival is a real statement of intent by the club. “To secure a player of Ben’s quality and experience of playing at the top level of the game is a real scoop for us,” he said. “I’m delighted he has totally bought into what we are trying to do here at the club and further proof that we want to continue to improve and progress in National One.”
Updated 16:01 - 24 Aug 2018 by Jon Edwards