Wales’ World Cup bid was thrown into bedlam last night as coach Rob Howley was sensationally sent home amid allegations of betting infringements.
As revealed on Mail Online on Tuesday Howley is alleged to have placed bets on rugby union matches – which is outlawed.
Howley, 48, arrived back in the UK into a storm yesterday afternoon and now must fight for his career in rugby.
Wales coach Rob Howley has been sent home from World Cup for alleged betting offences
Howley, pictured in Japan on Saturday, meeting locals after the Wales squad arrived
ROB HOWLEY CAREER
1990-93 Bridgend (40 apps, 72 points)
1993 Cardiff (6, 0)
1994-96 Bridgend (46, 42)
1996-2002 Cardiff (120, 210)
2002-04 Wasps (59, 45)
1996-2002 Wales (59 caps, 50 points)
1997, 2001 British & Irish Lions (2 caps, 0 points)
2002-03, 2003-04 Premiership
2002-03 Challenge Cup
2003-04 Heineken Cup
2004 Barbarians (assistant)
2005-08 Cardiff Blues (assistant)
2008-present Wales (assistant)
2009, 2013, 2017 British & Irish Lions (assistant)
2012-13, 2016-17 Wales (caretaker)
As Wales caretaker head coach:
2012-13: P11 W5 L6 (won 2013 Six Nations)
2016-17: P9 W5 L4
2008, 2012, 2019 Six Nations Grand Slam (as assistant)
2013 Six Nations (as caretaker head coach)
He is provisionally suspended from any involvement in the sport, pending an investigation.
Wales’ attack coach looks set to be charged under World Rugby’s regulation 6, which deals with anti-corruption and betting, and will be replaced in the Welsh set-up out in Japan by former fly-half Stephen Jones.
Players at all levels, agents, match officials, disciplinary personnel, coaching and backroom staff, owners and directors – are not allowed to bet on any rugby match.
The maximum sanction for the worst possible breach is life suspension from the sport.
If proven guilty Howley’s huge reputation in the game would certainly be besmirched forever.
Neither the sport’s governing body World Rugby nor the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) were in a position to confirm the scale of the breach last night, but Sportsmail understands it relates to bets, rather than the anti-corruption angle of Regulation 6 which covers match-fixing.
World Rugby’s regulation 6.3.1 states: ‘No Connected Person shall, directly or indirectly, bet and/or attempt to bet on the outcome or any aspect of any Connected Event and/or receive and/or attempt to receive part or all of the proceeds of any such bet and/or any other benefit in relation to a bet.’ Howley will likely face a disciplinary panel back in Cardiff led by the WRU – who will take the lead ahead of the sport’s governing body World Rugby.
A WRU statement confirming Sportsmail’s dramatic revelations read: ‘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.
‘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.
Warren Gatland (left) alongside Howley ahead of British and Irish Lions training in 2017
‘It would be inappropriate to comment further on an open and evolving process.’
Howley attended an opening training session in Japan on Monday – where 15,000 fans came to watch in Kitakyushu – but was a notable absentee from Wales’ welcoming ceremony that evening.
When the squad were informed of these serious allegations between the senior players and Gatland it was decided that Jones would replace Howley immediately.
Jones, who won 104 Wales caps and six for the British & Irish Lions, last season left his job as attack coach at the Scarlets. He has been a WRU employee all summer as he is due to succeed Howley under new head coach Wayne Pivac replaces Gatland in 2020.
Gatland (left) looks on alongside Howley during a Six Nations match against England in 2019
The 41-year-old will arrive in Japan before Wales’ first match of the tournament on Monday September 23.
Howley is Gatland’s closest ally and right-hand man in the Wales set-up.
Gatland coached Howley at Wasps and he has been the New Zealander’s assistant for 11 years since joining as an attack coach in 2008 four years after retiring from playing.
Howley captained his country 22 times in the 1990s and took sole charge of the Wales team as a coach in 2013 and 2017 when Gatland was away coaching the Lions.
This World Cup he was set to be involved in his 200th Test with Wales, having won 59 caps for his country as a scrum-half and coached 138 internationals after retirement.
Howley was a scrum-half and captained Wales during his playing days in the 1990s and 2000s
Howley also toured with the Lions twice – in 1997 and 2001 – winning two Test caps on the latter tour.
This Japanese World Cup was to be his last with Wales, and Howley was on a shortlist to replace Conor O’Shea as Italy head coach some time in 2020 – a job that is surely off the table now.
Proven betting offences at the top of professional rugby are rare. In 2018 Maro Itoje’s agent Matthew Hart was banned for two years for placing 1,476 illegal bets on matches.
And Leicester defence coach Phil Blake was banned for six months in 2015 after he was found guilty of two breaches of anti-corruption and betting rules.
Wales were set to hold a run-of-the-mill press briefing today (WED), but in light of this will now send their Chief Executive Martyn Phillips and Gatland in to fight fires with the agenda, and perhaps their entire World Cup fortunes, dramatically changed.