(Reuters) - British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland said it would be "a bit difficult" to have Rob Howley on his coaching staff due to questions his former assistant could face following a ban for breaching betting rules.
Howley was banned for 18 months, with nine months suspended and the sanction backdated to Sept. 16, the day he was sent home from Wales' Rugby World Cup campaign in Japan last year. He has since been appointed Canada's assistant coach.
Former Wales coach Gatland, who worked with Howley on the Lions two previous tours, is preparing for their tour of world champions South Africa next year.
"The last thing you want is people bringing up the past and taking away from what your preparation and focus is for a Lions tour," Gatland told reporters, when asked if Howley would be in contention for a role.
"That makes it a little bit difficult because it's the last thing I and someone like Rob would want to have happen."
Gatland said, however, he was "delighted for" Howley on his Canada appointment. "He's an outstanding coach, understands the mistakes he's made and hopefully he does really well."
The Lions face Japan at Edinburgh on June 26, 2021, before playing three tests and five warm-up games on the South Africa tour that is scheduled to run from July 3 to Aug. 7.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by William Mallard)