Wales assistant coach Rob Howley has been sent home from the Rugby World Cup in Japan due to a potential breach of betting rules, it is understood.

The 48-year-old former Wales captain, who has been part of Warren Gatland's coaching team since 2008, has left the squad's Kitakyushu base.

Wales' opening World Cup game is against Georgia in six days' time.

The developments will send shock-waves reverberating throughout the rugby world.

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.

Howley was recently linked with succeeding Conor O'Shea as Italy head coach following the tournament.