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English Team Bans Mobile Phones at Rugby World Cup

September 25, 2019

- Grant Whittington

Rob Howley may very well have reached not only the end of his Wales coaching career, but also of his rugby coaching career after it last week emerged that the former scrumhalf had supposedly violated one of Rugby Football Union’s betting regulations. Howley, in addition to having landed himself in very hot water, has sparked anew a panic in the ranks of team England, which panic has ultimately led to a decision being taken that no mobile phones will be permitted within the team or its management’s ranks on any match day for the duration of the World Cup.

The English team is particularity sensitive to any awkward movements on the betting front following the 2015 betting scandal that allegedly involved at least 6 players and members of management. The current WC team was, following the news around the Howley incident, addressed by former Leicester coach Phil Blake on the dangers associated with overstepping the boundaries. Blake in 2014 found himself to be drawing on the shortest end of things when it emerged that he had been guilty of a minor overstepping of Rugby Union’s betting boundaries and was made to serve a 6-month suspension for that particular transgression.

English Players Made “Aware”

According to England assistant coach Neal Hatley, the entire situation surrounding the Howley incident was properly explained to the English team and each member of the team and team management was then made to sign a document whereby members confirmed that they “understood” the relevant regulations, or in other words, what was and what wasn’t expected of them.

Documenting a player’s understanding of any which aspect of behaviour or play is nothing new in world sports and is an approach often adopted in especially world cricket. The document signed by the members of the English rugby squad also included details regarding the handing over of mobile phones on match days. Players and members of management were assured that their phones would be handed back to them immediately after every game.

A Bookie Spilled The Beans

Rob Howley’s involvement in the proceedings that led to his having been sent back home to Wales was reportedly the work of a smart bookie. The unnamed bookmaker had allegedly made contact with the Welsh Rugby Union sometime last week in order to confirm Howley’s identity as well as his involvement with Wales rugby.

All 20 teams participating in Japan 2019 are now on the high alert, despite the fact that no further details have been revealed. Howley’s case is now officially under investigation and the full kettle of fish will in all likelihood only be dumped into the lap of the general public once the biggest part of the investigation has been finalised.

Gatland Hopes For The Best

Various of the players playing for Wales have reportedly since the incident reached out to Howley in a show of support. Wales head coach Warren Gatland has in the meantime said that despite the situation now surrounding Howley being a volatile and emotional affair for all, its important that the Welsh team, at least for the moment, decide not to tip the wagon and continue to focus at the task at hand, which is playing their best game.

Howley’s future remains for the most part uncertain but it’s safe to say that he won’t be back in the running to coach either Italy or any English or Welsh rugby team anytime soon. What replacement coach Stephen Jones and the overall shock of the entire affair will mean for Wales remains to be seen, but for now, Gatland hopes that the team will be able to successfully re-align its collective focus with that of achieving what it initially came to Japan to do

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