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Sep 23, 2019 at 11.15am UK
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Gatland: Wales players have contacted Howley from Japan

Gatland: Wales players have contacted Howley from Japan
© Reuters
The assistant coach was sent home from the World Cup for allegedly breaching World Rugby betting rules.

Wales boss Warren Gatland says a number of players and staff have contacted Rob Howley after he was sent home from the World Cup.

Wales go into their World Cup opener against Georgia on Monday in the wake of assistant coach Howley leaving Japan for an alleged breach of World Rugby's betting regulations.

Howley, 48, has returned to Wales to assist with an investigation relating to a potential breach of World Rugby regulation six – specifically betting on rugby union.

Howley was sent home from the World Cup before it began
Howley was sent home from the World Cup before it began (Nick Potts/PA)

Gatland said: "Alun Wyn (Jones, the Wales captain) made a good comment to everyone – these things happen, you lose players, the wheel keeps turning and you have to move on.

"It's been tough, but you have to draw a line in the sand and concentrate on what your job and your role is.

"A number of players and staff have reached out to Rob. The biggest thing we can do is offer him as much support as we can.

"We can't change what has happened, but it is important we do provide support.

"There are a lot of good people out there who have reached out to offer him support. That is pleasing.

"We can't change what has happened. We have to really focus on the next couple of days and hopefully things go well on Monday (against Georgia), and then we build up to Australia."

Howley's coaching replacement – former Wales fly-half Stephen Jones – took part in his first training session on Saturday, and Gatland is delighted with how ready his players are to launch what will be a final World Cup for him as head coach.

"There was a little bit of edge and niggle at training (on Saturday). To me, that's always a good sign. The players know the game is coming close," he added.

"I said to the players after training, 'we've had our warm-up games – we're in competition phase now, and that's when we thrive'.

"We are Grand Slam champions, had 14 games in a row unbeaten and that was because of the way we prepared, mentally how tough we were, our game management, and I thought today there was that edge.

"We know that when we prepare well and train well and everything is right, we're a tough team to beat and can beat anyone.

"We've worked incredibly hard to get to where we are and achieve what we've achieved in the last few years, and we need to make sure we go out and give our best at this World Cup."

Ross Moriarty starts on the bench against Georgia
Ross Moriarty starts on the bench against Georgia (David Davies/PA)

Such is Wales' strength in depth that 34-cap number eight Ross Moriarty has to be content with a place on the bench, covering a back row comprising 21-year-old World Cup debutant Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric and Josh Navidi.

"He (Moriarty) is not too happy with me with him not being in the side, but I have to say that from the initial disappointment and the chat we had, he's turned that around," Gatland said.

"He's been positive, vocal at training and he's been what you expect of someone who knows they are disappointed but also knows what their role is in the team, which is to help the side prepare. That's all I can ask as a coach."

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