Rugby World Cup stars – including the tournament-favourite All Blacks - have been told not to use their phones at least an hour prior to clashes as administrators try to protect the sporting showpiece from corruption.

Players, coaches and All Blacks management underwent a briefing from World Rugby's integrity unit in the lead-up to the side's tournament-opening clash against the Springboks in Yokohama last night.

World Rugby has carried out the seminars with all 20 teams as part of its push to take all steps possible to protect the integrity of the tournament.

The briefings included all players being told to ensure they switched their cellphones off at least an hour prior to kick-off.

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The stance echoes that taken by the International Cricket Council which acted after several betting scandals, to ban players from having their phones in team dressing rooms.

And according to media reports in the UK, World Cup squads have also been told that during the 2015 Rugby World Cup there were at least six reported suspicious approaches made to players and team off-field management.

Wales attack coach Rob Howley, pictured in New Zealand with the British & Irish Lions in 2017, has left the World Cup as officials investigation an alleged breach of gambling rules. Photo / AP
Wales attack coach Rob Howley, pictured in New Zealand with the British & Irish Lions in 2017, has left the World Cup as officials investigation an alleged breach of gambling rules. Photo / AP

The briefings were part of pre-planned tournament protocol and not linked to the scandal which has shadowed the Welsh rugby team at the World Cup.

The team's attack coach Rob Howley was sent home last week after rugby bosses launched an investigation into him potentially breaching World Rugby betting rules.

Welsh media have reported that staff from an integrity unit of a gambling company had informally contacted Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) earlier this month.

Howley is a former Wales test star and is a long-time member of the Welsh coaching team. He has also played and been a member of coaching teams with the British & Irish Lions.

The WRU says the allegations are "serious".

The scandal dominated headlines in the lead-up to Friday's tournament opener, where hosts Japan toppled Russia 30-10.

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Three of the All Blacks visited the Fukutoku, Jinzya shrine and stopped in at local businesses in the Nihonbashi part of Tokyo talked to business owners and handed out Yokoso cards which will help assist foreign tourists when travelling to japan. Video / Pool

Players, coaches and match officials involved in professional rugby are banned from betting on the sport.

Howley has not commented since his return to the UK, but Wales' Kiwi coach Warren Gatland has stated the side had been left "shocked".

"At the moment these are allegations," Gatland said. "Rob is devastated by the allegations."

And Wales veteran Ken Owens told media on the eve of the tournament that Howley's exit had "been a bit of a shell shock to the boys".

World Rugby's steps to protect the integrity of the game at all levels – including elite international matches – has also previously seen it launch an online portal called "Keep Rugby Onside – World Rugby's anti-corruption website".

Advice included warnings on "how to spot the approach" from "corrupters".

All Blacks players, along with all other members of World Cup squads, have been told not to use their phones an hour before match kick-offs. Photo / Getty Images
All Blacks players, along with all other members of World Cup squads, have been told not to use their phones an hour before match kick-offs. Photo / Getty Images

"Approaches from corrupters may seem innocent at first. You may be introduced to someone by a team mate, an agent, a sponsor or may simply meet a person who seems to be a 'fan' or 'groupie' at a function, hotel, airport or other public place," the website states.

"Corrupters in some other sports have managed to bring one member of a team under their influence and then used that team member to try to approach other team members."

Players have also been told to beware of people who offer to pay for drinks or meals, give invitations to VIP events or nightclubs, lend expensive cars or introduce them to "women/men or arranging prostitutes, escorts or sexual favours (free or in exchange for money and with or without your knowledge)".

Information which could be sought include tactics, selections, injuries and form of squad members.

A data project carried out in the UK has backed Kieran Read to guide the All Blacks to their third successive Rugby World Cup win. Photo / photosport.co.nz
A data project carried out in the UK has backed Kieran Read to guide the All Blacks to their third successive Rugby World Cup win. Photo / photosport.co.nz

Meanwhile, in potentially more positive news for Welsh fans, the Red Dragons have been backed to make the Rugby World Cup final ... where a computer-generated data analysis believes they will face the All Blacks.

Those behind the QBE Business Insurance predicting model have used data involving the 20 teams featuring in Japan; including playing out 180,000 online match simulations.

The programme - which is normally used to predict what impact natural disasters like floods and earthquakes will have on business communities - gives the All Blacks a 50 per cent chance of winning the World Cup final.

In coming up with its predictions, it played out 3750 virtual World Cups and used a decade of data for each team including goalkicking strike rates, the variance in home and away results and how many tries each team had scored and conceded.