Wales to use Howley affair as galvanising force – Owens
Wales are preparing for their first World Cup game following the departure of their assistant coach.
Wales hooker Ken Owens says his side will use the Rob Howley betting affair as “a galvanising force” as their World Cup campaign prepares for kick-off.
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Assistant coach Howley was sent home from Japan earlier this week for an alleged breach of World Rugby’s betting regulations.
“We are never short of a little bit of adversity in Welsh rugby or a story breaking in a match week,” Owens said ahead of Monday’s Georgia opener.
“The boys have just responded perfectly. We’ve just had to get on with it and use it as a galvanising force.”
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.
Owens, who is chairman of the Welsh Rugby Players’ Association, revealed the Wales squad had a pre-arranged World Rugby integrity briefing – which are given to all World Cup nations – a day after the Howley matter was announced.
“All the boys, especially back home, get integrity briefings and reminders of it every season in terms of anti-doping, betting and all the rest of it,” Owens added.
“We had an integrity briefing the day after the announcement with Rob. We all know where we stand, and all the players are aware.
“The way the Union (Welsh Rugby Union) have dealt with it has been brilliant. It’s been to the point.
“They got it done as quickly as possible, and it shifted the focus straight back to the rugby. As players, all we can control is our performance on Monday.
It has been difficult. It's been a bit of a shell-shock to the boys Ken Owens
“The best way to do that is to be sharp and accurate in training, making sure our own house is in order so we can put in a performance against Georgia.
“It has been difficult. It’s been a bit of a shell-shock to the boys. We haven’t had time to reflect or dwell too much on it because we have got a job to do.”
Wales assistant coach Neil Jenkins, a former international team-mate and a coaching colleague of Howley’s, said: “I have spoken to Rob. He was okay. I don’t want to say any more – it’s pretty private as far as I am concerned.
“It is obviously very difficult. He is a very close friend of mine. It’s not ideal, but it is what it is. It’s happened, and we have to move forward.”
Former Wales fly-half Stephen Jones, who is replacing Howley, has arrived at the squad’s Toyota City base and will be part of training heading into Monday’s encounter.
“The good thing with Steve is that he was a world-class player, he is doing exceptionally well as a coach as well, and he’s been in this environment before,” Jenkins added.
“He pretty much knows how it works. He’s a fantastic person, and I think he knows a lot of the systems we play, and he will get into it pretty quickly.
“Pretty much everything has been put in place for Monday – it has been for some time – and we are ready to rock on that.
“We are desperate for a match. It seems to have been a long summer, and we are really looking forward to Monday. It’s Test time.”
Lock Adam Beard, meanwhile, is due to link up with the squad imminently after remaining in Wales last week to have his appendix removed.
Neither Beard nor his fellow lock Cory Hill, who is recovering from a stress fracture in his leg, are expected to be involved against Georgia.