Wales head coach Gatland 'shocked' over Howley investigation

Warren Gatland has admitted that he was shocked after losing assistant coach Rob Howley over a breach of rules governing gambling. Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has expressed his shock after his assistant coach Rob Howley was sent home from the World Cup amid allegations of betting infringements.

The Welsh Rugby Union (WFU) confirmed on Tuesday that Howley had returned to Wales and is now subject of an internal investigation in relation to a potential breach of World Rugby rules over betting on rugby.

Gatland said on Wednesday that he was stunned by the departure of his right-hand man but the situation could ultimately bring the team closer together.

"We got a shock the other day," he told a news conference in Fukuoka. "It took us a bit of time for it to sink in.

"You have to deal with adversity at times. You lose key players at times and have to respond to that.

"I have to say, the players in the last 24 hours have really stepped up and been incredibly responsible and resilient. Sometimes that brings teams closer together."

WFU chief executive Martyn Phillips revealed they had received a tip-off from the integrity unit of an online betting company last Wednesday and more detailed information on Friday before informing World Rugby.

Former Wales flyhalf Stephen Jones will step into the role of attack coach and is expected to arrive in Japan on Thursday, well in time for the opening game against Georgia in Toyota on Monday.

Wales flyhalf Dan Biggar said the players have also been surprised by the news and it has not been helped preparations for the tournament.

"The squad were disappointed, especially for people like myself who have only ever had Rob as coach in the set-up and he has given us every single cap we've had," he told a news conference.

"It's a huge disappointment really and shock but we are also adults and realise if things like this happen we have just got to get on with it.

"It's not the ideal situation but what we've done is rolled our sleeves up a little bit and just got on with it.

"We know there is going to be a bit more of a circus around with media and things but I'm sure by the time we get up to Toyota and the game kicks-off there will be lots more to talk about.

Meanwhile, England players and staff have been informed not to use their phones on World Cup matchdays in the wake of the Howley investigation.

The whole squad along with coaches and backroom staff were given a 20 minute presentation and advised to stay off their phones from an hour before kick-off.

England begin their World Cup campaign against Tonga on Sept. 22 in Sapporo.

Information from Reuters was used in this report.