As a scrum-half Howley played under the likes of Sir Ian McGeechan and Graham Henry and has continued his coaching education working alongside Gatland as Wales attack coach, helping to win the 2012 RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam.
And now Howley will have the opportunity to put into practice the lessons he has learnt as caretaker head coach after Gatland injured himself in his native New Zealand.
The challenge of Australia is bound to be formidable with Wales losing twice to the Wallabies in 2011 but Howley, who toured Down Under with Wales and the Lions, is relishing the challenge.
"Having been there as a player, having toured with the Lions as a player and coach and captained and coached Wales, I think I have had preparation for the challenge," he told the Western Mail.
"I've learned a hell of a lot off Warren and the likes of Ian McGeechan and Graham Henry. OK, the buck stops with me as head coach for now, but we have a brilliant management team who are also going to have a big influence.
"I am fairly relaxed about it. I have had a good education and while this may have come sooner than I thought because of exceptional circumstances, the overriding thing is that Warren was not more seriously hurt. He might have fallen on his head.
"I've spoken to him and it's early to pass judgement on when he'll be up and running. His right foot took a huge impact and there's big swelling around the area which is making it hard to make a prognosis. But, knowing Warren as I do, he will probably, in some capacity, try to get over to Australia, though if that doesn't happen, it doesn't happen."