Following ex-Wales scrumhalf Rob Howley’s ban for breaching gambling rules, a tonne of support has poured in for the former coach on social media.

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Wales’ former attack coach was sent home only days before the Rugby World Cup when these allegations were revealed, and the Welsh Rugby Union opened an investigation.

After being found guilty of breaching World Rugby Anti-Corruption and Betting Regulations, Howley has been given a 18-month ban from coaching, with nine months suspended, backdated to the beginning of the RWC, meaning he can make a return in June 2020.

A report released by the WRU states that the betting breaches relate to 363 bets placed on a total of 1,163 rugby union matches, using accounts held with Betway, William Hill and Ladbrokes. Some of these bets involved the Wales team.

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While there have been the expected jokes in light of this revelation, many have shown sympathy for the former Wales and British and Irish Lions international, and stressed that this is an addiction.

Furthermore, many feel that he should be given the help that is needed.

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Former England international and columnist Brian Moore said on Twitter that this “smacks more of an illness than nefariousness,” which has been echoed by many other fans.

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Although many agree that Howley should have been punished for such an offence, there has also been a lot of compassion, particularly as the WRU report states that “a trigger for Mr Howley’s gambling activity was a family tragedy involving the death of his sister.”

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However, there are still some who feel that this ban is too lenient, and does not serve as a deterrent, particularly when comparing the level of punishment in the game of football. There has also been criticism for the fact that he used the phone issued by Wales to make the bets, which has been deemed careless.

While there are fears that Howley’s career and reputation are at risk, some feel that he will have plenty of job offers come 2020. Former Wales fullback Lee Byrne, who had a longstanding feud with the coach, even suggested he will be back and in contention to join up with Warren Gatland with the British and Irish Lions.

Howley was replaced by Stephen Jones at the RWC, who was set to replace him anyway as part of new coach Wayne Pivac’s coaching team. After being part of the Wales coaching team for twelve years, this would have been a bitter end to his time, but there is confidence he can bounce back.

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