Rob Howley has issued a public apology after being banned from rugby for placing bets on matches involving Wales and two of their players.

Howley, former assistant to Wales coach Warren Gatland, was sent home from the World Cup in September and was suspended for 18 months by the Welsh Rugby Union on Monday, with nine months of the sanction suspended.

“I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to all those close to me and everyone this has affected, especially the rugby community, close colleagues and above all my family,” Howley said in a statement.

“I am an extremely private man, and unfortunately it was this that kept me silent as I battled my demons following my sister’s tragic death.”

It was found that, over a four-year period from November 2015 to September 2019, Howley placed 363 bets involving 1,163 rugby matches with three bookmakers through accounts held under his own name.

Of the bets, 24 involved Wales or were related to “connected events”, such as Six Nations games involving rival teams. On two occasions he bet on unnamed Wales players scoring tries.

The WRU revealed in a statement on Monday that “a trigger for Mr Howley’s betting activity was a family tragedy involving the death of his sister”.

Howley added: “I feel it is important for me to reiterate a number of the key facts that were highlighted and proven during the investigation.

“‘Mr Howley acknowledged his breach of the regulation at the first available opportunity, that he has demonstrated deep felt and genuine remorse, that he has an exemplary character and an exemplary disciplinary record (both as a player and coach).

“‘There was no suggestion of dishonesty of misuse of confidential information involved.

“‘The fact that Mr Howley had sought help from a psychologist who had diagnosed the trigger for Mr Howley’s recreational betting had been a family tragedy and that Mr Howley had refrained from betting since his suspension.’Rob Howley returned home from the World Cup in September (David Davies/PA)

“The last few months have been immensely tough, and continued help will allow me to find the right path back to rugby, which has always been my true passion.

“I am immensely grateful for the faith and support I’ve received from everybody close to me.”

Howley returned home from Japan shortly before the autumn’s World Cup began after the WRU became aware of possible wrongdoing and the outcome of their investigation was published on Monday.

The ban is backdated to the time of his initial withdrawal from the global showpiece, on September 16, meaning he will be able to take up a post in rugby from June 16.

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