x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Gavin Henson at career crossroad

Gavin Henson should be approaching the peak of his abilities as a rugby player, but instead he is at the crossroads of a career that promised much but has delivered little.

Some have even questioned why Gavin Henson is in the side.
Some have even questioned why Gavin Henson is in the side.

Gavin Henson should be approaching the World Cup at the peak of his powers. He should be ready to light up New Zealand with his dexterous, velvet hands, make the crowd awe at his sledge hammer of a right foot and make people wince with tackles so thunderous a loose forward would be proud of them.

Instead, at the age of 29, he is at the crossroads of a career that promised so much yet, so far, delivered so little. Two Grand Slams with Wales and one Test appearance for the British & Irish Lions is not commensurate with a player of his considerable talents.

He is largely remembered, however, for the bone-shuddering hit on Matthew Tait against England in 2006, and his match-winning penalty in that game.

Yet even those fond memories are slowly being eroded.

He attempted to resurrect his career at Saracens earlier this year but left after a matter of weeks. The hasty exit said more about Henson than Saracens, who went on to win the English title. The players were certainly not sorry to see him go, particularly after he failed to remember the names of his fellow backs when challenged by the head coach in a team meeting.

He then wound up at Toulon but it was not long before he alienated some of his squad members. He was suspended for a week by the club for "not respecting the club's code of conduct".

It is alleged that he was involved in a fight with several teammates at a nightclub after reportedly making derogatory remarks about colleagues, including Jonny Wilkinson. Henson would have better advised taking a leaf out of Wilkinson's book in how to lead life as a professional rugby player.

Instead Henson is set to become a reality television star - something it is difficult to imagine the shy, clean-cut Wilkinson ever contemplating. So soon after strutting his stuff on last year's Strictly Come Dancing, Henson, who has two children with the singer Charlotte Church, is searching for "the woman of his dreams" in the UK version of The Bachelor.

Henson can be sure to expect some banter from his Wales teammates when the squad head to Poland tomorrow for the first of two World Cup training camps. Some have questioned why he is even in the squad.

Brian Moore, the former England hooker and now forthright commentator, summed up why very succinctly in a column for the Daily Telegraph: "Rugby has now got to the point with Henson where it is entitled to ask — why should we bother with you any more when there are hundreds of youngsters who will crawl over broken glass to play for us and accept all that it entails?

"What, in your flawed and largely failed rugby career, makes it worth taking another chance, possibly upsetting other players, in order for you to be given another lifeline?

"The answer to these questions is one word - talent."

 

kaffleck@thenational.ae