TOKYO (Reuters) – Rugby chiefs have backed the swift action of the Wales Rugby Union in sending home attack coach Rob Howley four days before the start of the World Cup over a possible breach of rules governing gambling.
The WRU dropped the bombshell late on Tuesday in a statement which said Howley had returned to Wales to assist with an investigation into a potential breach of the regulation that prevents those involved in the game from gambling on matches.
“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,” the governing body said in a statement on Wednesday.
“It would be inappropriate to comment further on an open and evolving process.”
The departure of the 48-year-old former test scrumhalf will be a hammer blow to the Six Nations champions, who were recently ranked number one in the world and have high hopes of reaching a maiden World Cup final in Japan.
Howley has been head coach Warren Gatland’s right hand man since he took the reigns in 2008 and was placed in the top job in a caretaker role when the New Zealander led the British and Irish Lions tour on their 2017 tour.
He was set to leave his job after the World Cup and had been linked to the top job with the Italy team but could face a punishment as severe as a lifetime ban from rugby if the allegations prove founded.
Former Wales flyhalf Stephen Jones stepped into the role of attack coach after Howley’s departure for Wales on Monday.
Wales, who start their World Cup Pool D campaign against Georgia in Toyota on Monday, will hold a news conference in Fukuoka later on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Ian Ransom)