Neil Jenkins insists Wales cannot wait to get their World Cup campaign underway after it emerged players were given a briefing on the pitfalls of betting 24 hours after Rob Howley had been sent home.
Wales’ kicking coach Jenkins would not reveal details of a phone conversation he has had with Howley, who was sent home from Japan on Monday night for a suspected breach of betting rules.
But both Jenkins and Wales hooker Ken Owens believe players and coaches are regularly well briefed about regulations, even though the most recent warnings – delivered by World Rugby – came after Howley had bolted.
The briefing was pre-arranged as part of the tournament’s rules and not held in direct response to Howley’s departure. World Rugby has given similar advice to all World Cup teams.
Assistant coach 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 against Georgia.
“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.
Owens believes Gatland’s players are more than clear on their responsibilities concerning the rules on betting.
“All the boys get integrity briefings and reminders every season in terms of anti-doping, betting, and all the rest of it. Everyone is aware,” Owens said.
“It’s pretty clear. We had an integrity briefing the day after the announcement with Rob. We all know where we stand. The Welsh Rugby Players Association have had a new chief executive start last week and I’m sure he’ll get across all of that in the next week or so.”
Owens – who is the chairman of the WRPA – is one of Wales’ most experienced players and the senior figures in Gatland’s squad have stepped up in the wake of Howley’s departure.
“It’s been difficult. It’s been a bit of a shell shock to the boys,” Owens said. “We haven’t had time to reflect or dwell too much on it because we have got a job to do. As harsh as it sounds, that’s what we’re here to do and that’s what the focus has been for the last two years.
“We heard the news on the day off, we’ve had two training days, and they’ve been pretty sharp. We’ve just got on with it. Monday is a massive game against Georgia. We’ve all spoken, as we did at the start of the tournament, about there being no excuses.
“We’re never short of a little bit of adversity in Welsh rugby or a story breaking in a match week. We’ve just had to get on with it and use it as a galvanising force. That’s all we can do.”