LONDON (AFP) - Former Wales assistant coach Rob Howley has been banned from all involvement in rugby for 18 months, nine of which are suspended, after breaching anti-corruption and betting regulations, the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) said on Monday (Dec 16).
He returned home from Japan shortly before the World Cup began in September after the WRU became aware of possible wrongdoing.
"Howley was withdrawn from his duties with Wales ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup as soon as the WRU became aware of a potential breach of regulations and an investigation was immediately launched," said a statement from the governing body.
"The suspension is backdated to the time of his initial withdrawal from the World Cup, on the 16th September 2019, meaning Howley would be free to return to the game on or after 16th June 2020."
In the written decision released by the WRU, it is revealed Howley was charged with placing 363 bets on rugby union over a four-year period, using accounts with three different bookmakers held in his own name.
He "received the proceeds (or part of the proceeds) of the successful bets" and the former Wales and Lions scrum-half accepted the charge "without qualification".
The WRU's policy and integrity manager Jeremy Rogers was contacted by an employee of Betway, who said Howley had placed bets on Wales games.
At a September meeting to explain the process for the investigation. it was noted Howley was "visibly upset" and said: "I'm putting my hands up. If I was being evasive, I wouldn't have used my works mobile phone and email account".
It emerged he placed a bet on a Wales player to be the first try-scorer in the 25-7 Six Nations victory over Ireland in March, but Howley stated it was part of a treble bet, adding it was consistent with his normal recreational betting activity.
However, he then conceded that he knew betting on matches involving Wales was a breach of World Rugby regulations.
The 49-year-old former Wales captain had been part of former head coach Warren Gatland's coaching team since 2008.
His departure from the Wales camp in Japan threw the Six Nations' champions' preparations into disarray but they went on to reach the semi-finals, where they lost to eventual winners South Africa.
Howley enjoyed a glittering playing career, making 59 appearances for Wales and captaining his country on 22 occasions. He also played two Tests for the British and Irish Lions, subsequently joining them in a coaching capacity.