Howley ‘devastated’ by allegations he breached betting rules – Gatland

Wales boss Warren Gatland has revealed his sense of shock after Rob Howley was sent home from the World Cup for an alleged breach of World Rugby’s betting and anti-corruption regulations.

The Wales head coach said his assistant coach was left “devastated” by the allegations.

Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Martyn Phillips revealed that he was first made aware of matters last Wednesday, which was Wales’ World Cup departure day to Japan.

Wales v Ireland – International Friendly – Principality Stadium
Warren Gatland admits the squad was ‘shocked’ to hear that assistant coach Rob Howley was being sent home (Paul Harding/PA)

The WRU said that 48-year-old former Wales captain Howley had returned to Wales to assist with an investigation in relation to a potential breach of World Rugby regulation six, specifically betting on rugby union.

He has been part of Gatland’s highly-successful coaching team since 2008, and is now back in Wales.

Former Wales fly-half Stephen Jones, who was due to succeed Howley as attack specialist after the tournament, will join the squad on Thursday ahead of a World Cup opener against Georgia in Toyota City.

“We were shocked,” Gatland said at Wales’ squad base in Kitakyushu. “At the moment, these are allegations. Obviously, Rob was devastated by the allegations. That’s all I can say.

Wales Press Conference – Principality Stadium
WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips (pictured) says the ‘formal process’ of the investigation into Rob Howley’s actions will take place back in Wales (David Davies/PA)

“The Union are dealing with this, and my focus has to be on the next five days in terms of preparing the squad for the first game against Georgia.

“You have to deal with adversity at times, and it’s how you respond and react to that. This has happened.

“I must say that the players in the last 24 hours have really stepped up and they have been incredibly responsible and resilient, and sometimes that brings teams closer together.

“We have got to draw a line in the sand on this, and really focus on preparing the team for the next five days.

Rugby Union – Rugby World Cup 2011 – Semi Final – Wales v France – Eden Park
Stephen Jones is flying out to Japan to replace Howley in the Wales coaching team (David Davies/PA)

“We got a shock the other day, like I said, and it took a bit of time for it to sink in.

“We can’t say anything that potentially jeopardises the investigation, and we are pretty aware of that. There was concern by the coaches and the players about Rob and the welfare of Rob.

“Yesterday was my birthday, yes. I have had better birthdays for sure! It’s all part of the life experience.”

Asked if he had spoken to Howley, Gatland added: “I did text him to say I hope you got home okay, and to see how he was doing.”

If found guilty, Howley could face the maximum sanction of a life ban from the sport, with betting on any rugby game outlawed for the likes of players, coaches and match officials, among others.

He is provisionally suspended from any rugby-related activity, pending an investigation the WRU will lead.

Revealing a timeline, Phillips said: “We were contacted on Wednesday of last week informally to suggest there was a potential breach of regulation six.

“We were then contacted formally with further information on Friday evening. We took Saturday to digest that information.

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“It’s a pretty serious allegation, and we needed to be confident in our actions if we were going to do anything. That was important.

“Clearly, we are on the eve of the World Cup – the biggest tournament we play in – so that was a factor.

“But, equally, we were very conscious that we needed to act quickly and be decisive. That’s exactly what we’ve done.”

Phillips said the initial approach came from a betting company’s integrity team, not World Rugby.

Rob Howley
Rob Howley could face the maximum sanction of a life ban from the sport if found guilty (David Davies/PA)

He added: “These are serious allegations, there is a lot to cover, people to speak to, data to look at. I wouldn’t put any pressure on anyone to do things quickly – I will be putting pressure on them to do it right.

“We are so early on. The investigation hasn’t started. We are here, Rob is back in Wales.

“We will start to get under the bonnet of it now. When we start, we will get a sense of how long it’s going to take.

“Rob is back in Wales, and we have put the necessary support around him.

“Several of the coaches are in touch with him and we’re checking in on his well-being as we formalise our processes to get through the investigation.”

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