Wales backs coach Rob Howley has been sent home from the World Cup for an alleged breach of World Rugby’s laws covering betting and anti-corruption.
The 48-year-old’s departure is a huge blow just six days before Wales’ opening game in Japan against Pool D opponents Georgia.
Howley has been an integral part of boss Warren Gatland’s backroom team since the New Zealander took charge.
World Rugby says it will comment on the situation on Wednesday.
World Rugby’s regulation 6.3.1 reads: “No connected person shall, directly or indirectly, bet and/or attempt to bet on the outcome or any aspect of any connected event and/or receive and/or attempt to receive part or all of the proceeds of any such bet and/or any other benefit in relation to a bet.”
Wales are likely to turn to Stephen Jones to fill the gap left by Howley’s sudden departure.
Former Wales and British and Irish Lions fly-half Jones has already been confirmed as the next Wales backs coach under Wayne Pivac, who will take the reins from Gatland after the tournament.
Ex-Wales and Lions scrum-half Howley was already set to leave his role after the World Cup.
Howley had been linked with the Italy head coach job with current incumbent Conor O’Shea expected to depart next year, but that now looks unlikely.
The former Wales scrum-half has been part of Gatland’s backroom staff since being appointed in January 2008 and was one of the first backroom recruits, and also played under him at Wasps.
Since he became part of the coaching set-up, Wales have won four Six Nations titles, including three Grand Slams.
Howley was in charge of Wales’ 2013 Six Nations success when Gatland was away on a British and Irish Lions head coach sabbatical.
He was also part of Gatland’s winning Lions coaching team in Australia in 2013 and the drawn series in New Zealand four years later.