London - Former Wales assistant coach Rob Howley on Tuesday issued a public apology after being banned from rugby over a breach of betting rules as he "battled demons" following his sister's death.
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Howley, who worked under ex-head coach Warren Gatland, was sent home from the World Cup in September. The Welsh Rugby Union announced on Monday he had been suspended for 18 months, with nine months of the sanction suspended.
It was found that, over a four-year period from November 2015 to September 2019, Howley placed 363 bets involving 1,163 rugby matches with three bookmakers through accounts held under his own name.
Of the bets, 24 were placed on "connected events", some of which involved matches in which Wales were participating. Two of the bets were placed on Wales players.
"I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to all those close to me and everyone this has affected, especially the rugby community, close colleagues and above all my family," Howley said in a statement.
"I am an extremely private man, and unfortunately it was this that kept me silent as I battled my demons following my sister's tragic death (in 2011)."
The WRU revealed in a statement on Monday that "a trigger for Howley's betting activity was a family tragedy involving the death of his sister".
The former Wales captain highlighted a number of points in the report, including that he had demonstrated "genuine remorse" and that there was "no suggestion of dishonesty or misuse of confidential information involved".
Howley, who had been part of Gatland's coaching team since 2008, said the past few months had been "immensely tough".
The 49-year-old returned home from Japan shortly before the World Cup began after the WRU became aware of possible wrongdoing.
The ban is backdated to the time of his initial withdrawal from the global showpiece, on September 16, meaning he will be able to take up a post in rugby from June 16.