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World Rugby weighs in behind Wales' 'proactive approach' with Howley

The attack coach has been sent home from the World Cup.

NO ONE SAW this story coming, and how could they have?

Wales’ World Cup campaign has been thrown into disarray before it has even begun, with the positivity that surrounded Warren Gatland’s men after 15,000 people turned up to their open training session this week shattered by incredible breaking news overnight.

Attack coach Rob Howley has been sent home and the Welsh Rugby Union has launched an investigation “in relation to a potential breach of World Rugby regulation 6, specifically betting on rugby union.”

wales-training-and-press-conference-principality-stadium Rob Howley with Wales head coach Warren Gatland. Source: Nick Potts

This news marks a swift fall from grace for a man whose glittering CV includes 59 caps and two Lions tours as a player, as well as three Grand Slams as an assistant coach with Wales and a further two Lions trips in the same capacity. Howley is a legend of Welsh rugby, even if he has not been the most popular of coaches.

For Warren Gatland, the timing couldn’t have been worse, with Wales only days away from beginning their World Cup against Georgia on Monday in Toyota City. 

Stephen Jones, who will take over permanently as attack coach when Wayne Pivac succeeds Gatland post-World Cup, has already been flown to Japan to step into Howley’s shoes, bringing real rugby intellect with him, but this is a disastrous situation for the Welsh.

World Rugby has already come out with its support of Wales’ decision to send Howley home.

“World Rugby has been informed by the Welsh Rugby Union of a potential breach of World Rugby Regulation 6 (specifically betting on rugby) by a member of the union’s RWC 2019 coaching team,” reads a statement from the governing body.

“World Rugby fully supports the WRU’s proactive approach to this matter and can confirm that the union is keeping us informed of their initial discussions. It would be inappropriate to comment further​ on an open and evolving process.”

What happens next for Howley remains to be seen, with the WRU investigation to take place, but his coaching career would appear to be in major jeopardy.

Howley was interviewed by Munster for the senior coach role that Stephen Larkham has since filled, while he was also linked with taking over from Conor O’Shea as Italy head coach. Either way, Howley had been set to leave the Welsh set-up after the World Cup.

rob-howley Howley has been sent home to Wales. Source: Andrew Fosker/INPHO

That exit has come earlier than expected, however, and in circumstances that are of a truly nightmarish nature. 

It will be fascinating to hear what Gatland has to say on these events when he and WRU CEO Martyn Phillips speak to the media at a press conference in Kitakyushu this afternoon in Japan.

“The decision was taken to act immediately in light of recent information passed to the WRU,” read the WRU statement last night.

“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.

“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.”

There must be a sense of huge frustration and disappointment for Gatland but also a large degree of concern for a close colleague and friend, one imagines. 

What happens next will interesting to see but Wales are suddenly on the back foot after this remarkable turn of events.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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