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Wales rugby coach sent home from World Cup over potential betting breach
17 September 2019, 17:04
The assistant coach of the Welsh rugby team has been sent home from the World Cup for a potential breach of World Rugby's regulation on betting.
Rob Howley, a former Wales captain who has been on the coaching team since 2008, is thought to have already arrived back in Britain from Japan, where the tournament is being held.
The Welsh Rugby Union said that the 48-year-old had "returned to Wales to assist with an investigation in relation to a potential breach of World Rugby regulation 6, specifically betting on rugby union".
Wales' opening World Cup game is against Georgia in six days' time, with their campaign now off to the worst possible start.
In a statement, the WRU 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 6, 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.
"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."
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.
Howley enjoyed a glittering playing career, making 59 appearances for Wales and captaining his country on 22 occasions, while also helping Wasps to European glory in 2004.
He also coached Wales to the 2013 Six Nations title when Gatland was preparing for the Lions tour to Australia later that year.
He had been due to leave his Wales coaching role after the World Cup, along with Gatland and fellow assistants Shaun Edwards and Robin McBryde.
Howley was recently linked with succeeding Conor O'Shea as Italy head coach following the tournament, but he now faces a battle to salvage his coaching career and his reputation.