Rugby World Cup 2019: Warren Gatland shocked as Rob Howley sent home
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By Dafydd Pritchard
BBC Sport Wales at Kitakyushu, Japan
Wales boss Warren Gatland was”shocked” when backs coach Rob Howley was shipped home in the World Cup to an alleged gambling breach.
He believes the setback will not violate the group from Japan.
Howley’s death came only six days ahead of Wales’ opening game against Pool D opponents Georgia.
Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Martyn Phillips confirmed there would be an evaluation.
“You must manage hardship occasionally, and it’s how you respond and respond to that,” said Gatland.
“We were shocked. The Union are dealing with this, and that my focus has to be concerning preparing the squad to the very first game against Georgia about the following five times.
“I must say that the players in the previous 24 hours have stepped up and they have been exceptionally responsible and resilient, and at times that attracts teams closer together.”
“At the moment, all these are allegations. Clearly, the allegations ruined Rob. That is all I will say.”
News of Howley’s departure emerged on Tuesday, together using all the WRU confirming that the 48-year-old had”returned to Wales to help with an investigation” in relation to a prospective breach of betting on rugby.
World Rugby’s law 6.3.1 reads:”No linked person will, directly or indirectly, wager and/or attempt to wager on the outcome or some other aspect of any associated occasion and/or receive or try to receive part or all the profits of such a bet or some other advantage in relation to a bet.”
Phillips reported the WRU was first informed of this breach by the integrity team of a business last Wednesday, when Wales’ team were traveling to Japan.
Phillips and other mature WRU figures arrived in Japan on Monday and later that afternoon he met Howley, who he said has been”very cooperative”.
“We then had a second meeting after that afternoon and decided the perfect plan of action is for Rob to return to Wales,” said Phillips.
“We’re on the eve of the World Cup, the largest tournament we play , and that was a variable.
“But, equally, we were quite conscious that we had to act quickly and be decisive. That is precisely what we’ve done.
“I’m also very aware that there are rather a vast assortment of stakeholders which we represent. The Welsh public and how important this tournament would be always to them not least.
“Lastly, it turned into a serious allegation about Rob. He is our employee and we have a duty of care to his welfare is valuable to us.”
Coaches and players are informed about gambling regulations but Phillips said Howley violation didn’t reflect on the approach of the WRU.
“I would not call it embarrassing. The crucial point to us was that as and when we had been alerted it’s what you do,” he said.
“It is very tough to do something about something you don’t know about. I’m pleased in how we and World Rugby have responded – what we are currently seeing is taking the allegation seriously.
“They [players and coaches ] get briefings [about betting regulations] to a regular basis and they sign to confirm they understand what’s demanded of them on a regular basis so without a shadow of a doubt I believe folks in Baseball understand what is required of them”
Wales have delivered to fill the gap left by the unexpected departure of Howley, along with also the former Scarlets backs coach will join the squad on Thursday in which they face Georgia on Monday.
Jones, a former Wales and British and Irish Lions fly-half, has been confirmed as another Wales backs coach under Wayne Pivac, who will take the reins from Gatland following the tournament.
“I have spoken to him [Jones] and stated regarding the game plan we have obtained for Georgia it’ll be different for different games,” said Gatland.
“He is familiar with a few of the matters and has been watching the games as well. It is important he’s got an opportunity to bring his thoughts and present them.
“We are planning for the next match and we’ve spoken to the older players around keeping and that one or two things up our sleeves.
“It’s no different to the message we deliver to the gamers – we are not arrogant enough not to take thoughts on board. If Stephen does that great. It was a dialogue that is positive.
“It hasn’t really changed our prep. We have put items in place. [Skills coach] Neil Jenkins has a massive amount of experience. Rhys Patchell and dan Biggar have obtained on a massive amount of senior players, obligation and backs .
“There’s a lot already in place in terms of preparations for Monday – it is important we train nicely in the upcoming few days and make ourselves prepared.”
When information of Howley’s departure broke, tuesday, was likewise Gatland’s 56th birthdaycake.
Despite the disappointment of being without the man who has been at his side throughout his 12-year Wales reign, Gatland did manage himself a wry smile.
“I have had better birthdays for certain,” he said.
“It is all part of the life experience”
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