Wales 'circling the wagons' after Rob Howley departure

Robin McBryde
Robin McBryde

Robin McBryde says there has been a feel of Wales "circling the wagons" following the Rob Howley affair.

McBryde's fellow Wales assistant coach Howley was sent home from the World Cup earlier this week for an alleged breach of World Rugby's betting regulations.

"The intensity of our training yesterday was the best it has ever been," forwards specialist McBryde said on Thursday. "There was a little bit of a feeling of circling the wagons and not allow anything to affect the environment."

Howley, 48, has returned to Wales to assist with an investigation in relation to a potential breach of World Rugby regulation six, specifically betting on rugby union. Along with McBryde, he has been a member of head coach Warren Gatland's staff for several years. McBryde and Howley are also former Wales team-mates.

Outright preview of Rugby World Cup
Outright preview of Rugby World Cup

McBryde added: "It's tough. We have been together for a long time. It's unfortunate that he (Howley) has to go through this. He's been a great servant. He's a good man and a good friend. It's sad to see someone have to go through it."

McBryde said he had spoken with Howley before his departure from Wales's Kitakyushu training base.

"He was keen to break the news to the other coaches, rather than us finding out second-hand," McBryde added. "He did that. We definitely can't wait to get going (against Georgia on Monday). We need to start talking about rugby again. The sooner this first game starts... once it (the World Cup) does kick off tomorrow night, then there is a full weekend of rugby. That will get the ball rolling, and then the days and weeks will pass by."

McBryde, meanwhile, has tipped Dragons flanker Aaron Wainwright to enjoy an outstanding international career. Wainwright, 21, looks set to make a World Cup debut in the Georgia game, and McBryde has been gushing in his praise.

"I don't like to compare people to other players, but he is very reminiscent of a young Sam Warburton with the way he carries the ball," McBryde said.

"Both in attack and defence, he's very physical. He enjoys that part of the game. He could even be better than Sam, though. He's definitely a player with that growth still there. He's still learning the game. He's in fantastic condition. He has put some good weight on and he's able to maintain that weight with all the running we've done. His skills work is still on the up, and set-piece work as well. He's going to be around for a number of years."

Wales struggled past Georgia 13-6 when the countries met in Cardiff during the 2017 autumn Tests. And, although the reigning Six Nations champions are firm favourites for Monday's Pool D clash, McBryde knows a tough challenge awaits.

"They pride themselves on the set-piece, the tighter aspects of the game - scrum, driving lineout, etc," he said. "We know we're going to be tested in that area. A lot of their players play in France. We are preparing for that. We're not expecting them to shy away from the physical battle up front and it will be a good battle for us.

"We won't shy away from the confrontational aspects, but we've got to be smart about the way we go about it. We need to be composed and professional in the way we go about our business."

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