Rob Howley has been expelled from the World Cup just days before Wales open their campaign in Japan. The assistant coach was sent home from the camp on Monday following an alleged breach of World Rugby’s regulation six which governs anti-corruption and betting.
Howley had previously been linked with succeeding Warren Gatland at the helm in Wales. The former scrum-half was initially on the shortlist when the New Zealander decided his tenure would come to an end after the World Cup in Japan, but he ruled himself out of staying on with the set-up and said a return to club rugby was his preference when Wayne Pivac assumes control.
Howley was apparently at Wales’ open training session on Monday in Japan where 15,000 fans attended. The Welsh team trained in front of a packed-out stadium where the supporters could be heard singing the national anthem of the men in red. However, the situation then changed and he soon left the camp.
A Welsh Rugby Union statement on Tuesday afternoon said: “The WRU can confirm that Rob Howley has returned to Wales to assist with an investigation in relation to a potential breach of World Rugby regulation six, specifically betting on rugby union.
“The decision was taken to act immediately in light of recent information passed to the WRU. No further details can be provided at this stage as this would prejudice the investigation. If required an independent panel will be appointed to hear the case.
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“Rob has co-operated fully with our initial discussions and we would ask that the media appreciate this is a difficult and personal matter for Rob and that his privacy is respected before an outcome is reached. Warren Gatland has consulted with senior players and Stephen Jones will be arriving in Japan imminently to link up with the squad as attack coach.”
The 48-year-old won 59 caps for Wales, scoring 10 tries. He captained his country to 15 wins in 22 matches, including a run of 10 successive victories in 1999.
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As a player, he was also part of two British and Irish Lions tours – in 1997 to South Africa, where he suffered a shoulder injury and missed the Tests, and 2001 to Australia. He was one of the leaders down under, playing in the first two Tests before sustaining the broken rib that ruled him out of the series decider.
Howley has been part of the Wales coaching team since January 2008, helping them to three Six Nations titles – including two Grand Slams – and the semi-final of the 2011 World Cup. He also took charge of the national side as interim head coach whenever Gatland was granted leave to scout for the Lions.
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