Wales boss Warren Gatland said his team were “shocked” after assistant coach Rob Howley was sent home due to allegations of betting infringements.
Howley, a former Wales captain and scrum-half, was forced to leave the Wales camp in Japan on Tuesday and has been suspended from all rugby related matters while an investigation into the allegations is underway.
Wales kick-off their Rugby World Cup campaign against Georgia in the City of Toyota Stadium on Monday.
Former Wales fly-half Stephen Jones, who was set to replace Howley as the team’s backline coach in 2020, has been flown over to Japan to join the Six Nations champions at the World Cup.
“We were shocked by it,” Gatland told reporters in Kitakyushu on Wednesday. “At the moment, these are allegations. Rob is devastated by the allegations.”
Howley has been part of Gatland’s backroom staff since 2008 and also served as an assistant coach for the British & Irish Lions on their tours of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
“It took a bit of time to sink in,” added Gatland. “It is now how we turn a difficult situation into a positive one. I texted Rob to see how he got home and that he was OK.”
“You have to deal with adversity at times, the players have really stepped up. We have got to draw a line in the sand.
“My focus has to be on preparing the team for the first World Cup game against Georgia. It hasn’t really altered preparations. It will focus us. It is important we focus on the rugby.”