Interim head coach Howley has made a major call by leaving British and Irish Lions Test scrum-half Mike Phillips on the bench for Saturday's autumn opener against Argentina in Cardiff.
Bayonne number nine Phillips is among five members of the Wales autumn Test squad - James Hook, Gethin Jenkins, Paul James and Luke Charteris are the others - currently plying their trade in French or English club rugby.
Club commitments meant none of them were involved during last week's training camp in Poland, which was viewed by Howley as critical in autumn preparations.
In contrast, Wales' home-based players travelled to Spala because terms of a participation agreement signed between the four professional regional teams and the Welsh Rugby Union ensured their availability.
Phillips, who has been capped 68 times, has by no means been made a scapegoat, but the fact he was unable to make a key training week has undoubtedly counted against him. Scarlets scrum-half Tavis Knoyle will start this weekend.
Explaining his decision, Howley said: "There was the amount of work Tavis got through last week, not only with the back line but with the forwards as well, and generally being in and around the team.
"It is important for us that we have had good preparation and Tavis as a half-back is an integral part of the team. He has worked his socks off and deserves to start.
"The dynamics of the team are important when you spend time together. It's about those marginal gains that you get.
"When you go to France and England (to play), you take yourself out of that environment. It's a difficult one because some of those players, in terms of experience, we might lose that.
"I suppose as coaches we have to take the hit because we want to be hugely supportive of our regional game. We want our supporters to watch the best Welsh players in the Welsh game.
"We want our best players to stay in Wales. That is not always going to be the case, depending on the financial attraction of England and France. The player has to make that decision.
"I think it is pretty important when you look to go abroad that you are responsible enough to make sure (that people know) you want to play for Wales. I think that is the message we have to get out there."
Phillips, Hook and James are all on the bench against Argentina, but Jenkins starts and Charteris will be in action for Perpignan this weekend after a deal was struck to free him in return when Wales face Australia on December 1.
The Wales side this weekend includes debut-making Ospreys prop Aaron Jarvis, while Josh Turnbull plays at blindside flanker after injuries sidelined Dan Lydiate and Ryan Jones.
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