England’s entire playing squad and backroom staff have signed a document stating that they understand World Rugby’s regulations on anti-corruption and betting.
The World Cup is reeling from the news that Wales attack coach Rob Howley has returned home to answer for an alleged breach of the rules, specifically in relation to betting on rugby.
Along with every nation competing in Japan, England have been given a detailed 20-minute briefing by World Rugby’s integrity unit.
Theirs took place on Monday, when news of Howley’s alleged transgression was known inside the Welsh camp but was yet to be made public.
Upon completion of the presentation at the England team hotel in Miyazaki, a form was passed around and signed by everyone present to record that they understood its contents.
England assistant coach Neal Hatley expressed his surprise at the scandal engulfing Howley given that Eddie Jones’ squad have now received two briefings on the subject in a matter of weeks.
“It couldn’t be any clearer for us as a squad. All the stipulations were set out very, very clearly,” Hatley said.
“I was a little bit surprised about Rob, but it was made clear before we arrived and it was made clear on Monday. It’s a real warning for everyone at the tournament. A real live reminder.”
Among the steps taken to protect the game are instructions that players must switch off their phones in the build-up to World Cup matches.
England were also told during the briefing on Monday that at the last global showpiece four years ago there were six reports of suspicious approaches being made to players and/or staff.
World Rugby used the case of former Leicester defence coach Phil Blake, who was banned for six months in 2015 for a breach of Rugby Football Union betting rules, to explain the potential repercussions of any wrongdoing.
While the Wales camp were coming to terms with Howley’s sudden departure, England made the 941-mile trip from Miyazaki to Sapporo, the setting for their tournament opener against Tonga on Sunday.
Jones names his team to face the Pacific Islanders on Friday morning, when he is expected to give World Cup bolter Lewis Ludlam a start in the back row.
Twelve months ago Ludlam was considering his options outside of rugby as he feared that his professional career was slipping away due to injury and competition at his club Northampton.
But having been picked in an England squad for the first time in June, he seized his opportunity by impressing Jones in training and on his debut against Wales to book his ticket to Japan.
“To be involved in something like this… you grow up watching this tournament and now you’re here. It’s just about making the most of it now,” the 23-year-old flanker said.
“It’s what you’ve been working towards since you were a kid, lacing your boots up and wanting to be there.
“So I’m very grateful to have that opportunity. I’m grateful to the coaches and it’s just about proving them right and doing them proud and hopefully doing something special.
“A lot of people talk about Tonga being a very physical team but that’s not all. They are dangerous, they have got a lot of quality players.
“We’ve reviewed them hard, we’ve looked at it and we’ve got a good plan in place to hopefully turn them over at the weekend.”