(Reuters) - Former Wales assistant coach Rob Howley has apologised for breaching rugby's betting rules, saying he had "battled demons" after his sister's death.
The 49-year-old attack coach was banned for 18 months, with nine months suspended, on Monday with the sanction backdated to Sept. 16, the day he was sent home from Wales' Rugby World Cup campaign in Japan.
An investigation found that Howley, who earned 59 caps for Wales between 1996-2002, placed 363 bets, including some on Wales, on rugby union between November 2015 and September 2019, featuring 1,163 matches in total.
"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," he said in a statement https://www.walesonline.co.uk/sport/rugby/rugby-news/rob-howley-breaks-silence-betting-17432991.
"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.
"The last few months have been immensely tough, and continued help will allow me to find the right path back to rugby which has always been my true passion.
"I am immensely grateful for the faith and support I've received from everybody close to me."
The disciplinary panel that handed down Howley's suspension said in its statement that a trigger for his betting activity was a family tragedy involving the death of his sister in 2011.
He will be free to return to rugby from June 16 next year.
(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)