Wales star Dan Biggar has spoken of his “huge disappointment” over the Rob Howley affair that has rocked Wales’ World Cup camp.
The Wales assistant coach is now back home following an alleged breach of World Rugby’s betting and anti-corruption regulations, and he faces a detailed investigation.
Against that back-drop, Biggar and company are preparing for next Monday’s World Cup opener against Georgia, which is followed by an appointment with Australia six days later.
Asked at a press conference in Kitakyushu to outline the squad’s emotions when they were told the news, fly-half Biggar said: “They were disappointed.
“Especially for people like myself and Jon (centre Jonathan Davies), who have only ever had Rob as coach in the set-up and he has given us every single cap we’ve had.
“It’s a huge disappointment, really, and shock, I suppose, but we are also adults and realise if things like this happen then we have just got to get on with it.
“That’s what has been great about this squad over the last year or two is that whatever has come our way – we had a couple of distractions in the last Six Nations and we went on to win our final two games and the Grand Slam – we are strong.
“We have got lots of strong characters in the squad, and hopefully that will stand us in good stead for the next five or six weeks.
“I don’t think we need a huge amount more galvanising than the prize that is at stake on November 2 (World Cup final day). That is the main aim of all of us coming here, and it still remains the same.”
Davies, meanwhile, revealed he had a conversation with Howley before he left, but the Scarlets centre did not divulge details.
With Howley gone from the camp, 104-times capped former Wales fly-half Stephen Jones will link up with the squad as attack coach in Toyota City on Thursday.
Jones was already joining Wales as an assistant coach after the World Cup, being part of Wayne Pivac’s team, with Pivac succeeding head coach Warren Gatland following the tournament.
Davies added: “Having played with Steve, what he carried over to the coaching side was the energy he always had as a player.
“On the training field he always has that bounce about him, he always demands high standards and tactically he wants the boys to play what’s in front of them and make sure we make the right decisions.
“A new pair of eyes is an opportunity for us to grow as a group, develop and see where we can take it. There will be a lot of excitement and Steve will give it his best shot, I can guarantee that.”
And Biggar said: “The Scarlets boys in particular speak incredibly highly of Steve. It is going to be interesting to see what he gets out of us.
“For Monday night (against Georgia) a lot of the framework has been done already and we will stick to what we have planned for that, and I am sure the longer he is in camp and the more comfortable he gets with everyone he will bring his own ideas.
“As ‘Gats’ said, it’s extremely disappointing for Rob, but hearing from a lot of the Scarlets lads in particular how good Steve is – and in my position in particular – there are probably few better to learn from.”