Rob Howley has opened up on how the death of his sister led to him being sent home from last year’s Rugby World Cup following a betting scandal.
The former Wales assistant coach was suspended by the WRU for nine months after he admitted breaching betting regulations. As a result, Howley was sent home from Japan days before his side’s opening fixture against Georgia.
It emerged that Howley had placed 363 bets, losing more than £4,000, on more than 1,000 rugby matches from November 2015. On two occasions, it is believed he bet on Wales players to score tries.
With Howley’s suspension drawing to a close, the highly regarded coach spoke to The Mail on Sunday about his gambling issues and how they stemmed from the death of his sister after he agonised over failing to pay his weekly visit to her days before her passing.
“I blamed myself for her death. If I’d seen her on that Wednesday, would she still be alive?” Howley said.
“There was a lot guilt, should haves, could haves. By putting her in that house, on her own, I created an environment for her to kill herself. Her alcoholism went from bad to worse…… My feeling was that I had driven my sister to her own grave.”
After expressing his emotions, Howley broke in 2015 turning to gambling after discovering his sister’s estate was embroiled in a number of police and financial issues.
“It was never about the money. Never. It wasn’t addictive behaviour. It was about escaping. A means of forgetting about the bad things and the experience of my sister.”
Howley spoke of the embarrassment and humiliation that came with having to tell senior players of his indiscretions while he also struggled to face his wife and two daughters. He did, however, claim that Warren Gatland, with whom he’d coach alongside since 2008, was unwavering in his support which led to Howley seeing a clinical psychologist which helped him come to terms with his issues.
With Howley’s suspension set to end on June 16 the former Welsh assistant revealed that he has been in contact with Wasps about a potential return to the sport working under Dai Young.
“That phone call from [Wasps owner] Derek Richardson gave me a huge boost, reassuring me that I have a future in the game,” he said.
“Given my experience of the last nine months — some self-reflection and self-awareness — I’d like to think it will benefit me as a coach.”
“I now feel at peace with myself and I’m no longer battling my demons, although there is not a day that goes by without thinking about Karen.”