Wales coach Rob Howley has been sent home from their Rugby World Cup camp amid allegations of betting offences.
It is understood Howley allegedly placed bets on rugby union matches and has been provisionally suspended from all matters relating to rugby and will be banned immediately from the tournament pending a disciplinary hearing.
Howley leaves the Wales squad just six days before their opening match against Georgia in Japan and will be replaced by former fly-half Stephen Jones, who was set to take over Howley’s job in 2020.
A statement from the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) read: “The WRU can confirm that Rob Howley has returned to Wales to assist with an investigation in relation to a potential breach of World Rugby regulation 6, specifically betting on rugby union.
“The decision was taken to act immediately in light of recent information passed to the WRU.
“No further details can be provided at this stage as this would prejudice the investigation. If required an independent panel will be appointed to hear the case.
“Rob has co-operated fully with our initial discussions and we would ask that the media appreciate this is a difficult and personal matter for Rob and that his privacy is respected before an outcome is reached.
“Warren Gatland has consulted with senior players and Stephen Jones will be arriving in Japan imminently to link up with the squad as attack coach.”
Players, coaches and officials at all levels in the game are prohibited from betting on any rugby fixtures.
The 48-year-old former Wales captain has been part of Warren Gatland’s coaching team since 2008.
Howley enjoyed a glittering playing career, winning 59 caps for Wales and captaining his country on 22 occasions, while also helping Wasps to be crowned European champions in 2004.
He also played for the British and Irish Lions in 1997 and 2001, and was part of the Lions coaching staff on their last three tours.
He had been due to leave his Wales coaching role after the World Cup, along with Gatland and fellow assistants Shaun Edwards and Robin McBryde.