Henson given Wales chance
Published 19/01/2012 | 05:00
Gavin Henson has been handed yet another chance to stake his claim for Wales, despite having made only nine first-class starting appearances in almost three years and having been dropped from this weekend's Heineken Cup decider by the Blues.
Warren Gatland warned, however, that if the utility back "is not up to speed" he will not appear in the final Six Nations squad.
Gatland named Henson in the 35-strong party who will take part in the training camp in Poland next week. The shrewd Kiwi did so anticipating the resulting hype.
"You do ask yourself if it is worth the hassle of selecting Gavin because of the interest and speculation you get from the media," sighed Gatland. But he is a long-time admirer of Henson and pointed to his contribution to the 2008 Grand Slam.
Nevertheless, Henson -- who turns 30 in a fortnight -- has only played three times for the Blues this season, after recovering from a wrist injury which kept him out the World Cup, and finds himself dumped from the Blues match-day 22 who will take on Racing Metro on Sunday.
But Gatland remains committed to Henson, although the chances of him starting against Ireland two weeks on Sunday seem remote.
"Centre is one of the positions we have depth," he said. "There was a long debate about Gavin: he was not the first name on our sheet, but we'll look at him because of his past reputation and sit down with him and see where his head is at. But if he is not up to speed, he will not be selected further."
Gatland was clearly dismayed that his call-up of the Blues' Harry Robinson was being overshadowed by Henson. The 18-year-old wing has played only two senior matches.
Following George North's remarkably rapid rise to prominence, the rugby world will be wary of the latest Welsh wonder kid. Gatland certainly did not talk Robinson down, although it would be a huge surprise if he makes the pared-down squad.
"Harry is a bit like Jason Robinson in the way he darts around," said Gatland, who found no place for veteran out-half Stephen Jones. (© Independent News Service)
Squad in factfile