Lee Byrne: Ex-Wales full-back claims 'bullying' Rob Howley treatment

Lee Byrne
Former full-back Lee Byrne scored 10 tries in his 46-cap Wales career

Former Wales full-back Lee Byrne claims he was subjected to "bullying treatment" by attack coach Rob Howley.

Byrne, 37, won the last of his 46 Wales caps in 2011 and says his relationship with Howley broke down that year.

"I felt he was trying to undermine me, in a subtle yet insidious way," Byrne writes in his autobiography, serialised in the Western Mail.

The Welsh Rugby Union said it would: "Contact Lee to fully understand his concerns regarding his treatment."

Welsh rugby's governing body added that: "We will then determine whether any further comment needs to be made."

Howley was one of head coach Warren Gatland's first appointments when he took charge of the national team in January 2008.

The 47-year-old won 59 caps for Wales, captaining his country on 22 occasions, and has been Wales caretaker coach when Gatland has been on sabbatical to coach the British and Irish Lions.

Howley was part of the Lions backroom staff in last summer's drawn series in New Zealand and was one of those singled out by Ireland back-row Sean O'Brien in his criticism of the coaching.

Rob Howley
Rob Howley was part of the coaching staff for the 2017 Lions tour to New Zealand

Byrne, who won a Lions cap on the 2009 tour to South Africa, claims that fellow Bridgend native Howley began to undermine him during Wales sessions towards the end of his international career.

The former Llanelli, Scarlets, Ospreys, Clermont Auvergne and Dragons player claims that there were incidences where Howley favoured full-back rival Leigh Halfpenny with comments during training, while criticising Byrne.

"We'd started working together in 2008 when Warren Gatland brought him into the Wales set-up. He'd overseen my best moments in a Wales shirt, and I rated him as an attack coach," said Byrne, who helped Wales win the 2008 Grand Slam and scored 10 tries for his country.

"But, in around 2011, cracks started to appear in our relationship. I'd been affected by a knee injury and had worked my backside off to make the squad for the World Cup.

"But when I returned to the training field, I noticed that Howley had a different attitude towards me.

"'Great kick, Halfers [Halfpenny]. Well done, Halfers!' Howley would yell during training.

"Fair enough, except when I nailed the same kick there'd be stony silence. 'Awesome angle, Halfers!' he'd cry, only to ignore anything decent I did, whilst loudly criticising my mistakes.

"It seemed to me that Howley's constant sniping was part of a grinding-down process - step by step and day by day - to get me out of the team.

"I felt like he was trying to break me down mentally, to make me give in so they could justify dropping me.

"[I was] subjected, in my view, to bullying treatment."

Byrne, who retired from playing in April 2015 because of injury, says he turned down the chance to play for Wales against Tonga in November 2013 after Howley tried to recall him at short notice.

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