Sunday 26 February 2017

Henson sets sights on returning to Welsh fold

Saracens 13
Wasps 6

Alex Lowe

Gavin Henson wants to be thrown in at the deep end by Saracens to prove he is ready to play for Wales against England on the opening weekend of the Six Nations.

Henson made his long-awaited comeback after a 21-month absence at Wembley yesterday as a second-half replacement as Saracens ended Wasps' unbeaten run to move into second in the Premiership.

"The reason I got back into rugby was to play for my country. I would love to do it in the Six Nations and the England game is my target, but time is running out," said Henson.

"I need to start a game of rugby and at 12 as well. I wouldn't have thought Wales are looking at me at 13. The England game is my target."

Henson's fellow replacement Andy Saull scored the decisive try, with Saracens out-half Owen Farrell and Wasps' opposite number Dave Walder landing two penalties apiece.

Wasps left Wembley with a bonus point, but it was their first Premiership defeat since their 37-10 mauling at home to Northampton in October.

Saracens attracted a St Stephen's Day crowd of 38,421 to Wembley and all eyes were on Henson, who had not played since the Ospreys' LV Cup semi-final in March 2009.

For six months after taking unpaid leave from the Welsh region, Henson believed he would not play rugby again.

The 28-year-old fled Wales following his split from fiancee Charlotte Church and he trod the reality television beat, with appearances in '71 Degrees North' and 'Strictly Come Dancing'.

But, amid all the sequins and prime-time television appearances, Henson said he began to miss the blood and thunder of top-flight rugby and jumped at the chance of joining Saracens until the end of the season.

Typically, it took just two minutes before Henson was at the heart of the action when he picked off an interception just metres from the Wasps line.

Henson drove for the line but he was wrapped up by Joe Simpson and could not ground the ball as the Wasps scrum-half denied him a dream comeback.

Despite his limited training time with Saracens, Henson did not shy away from contact and he made a couple of powerful ball carries, one of which left Wasps centre Ben Jacobs shaken.

When Henson came on, Saracens led 10-0. There had almost been more entertainment at half-time than in the whole first 40 minutes, when Saracens supporter Matthew Rouse won £250,000 in the crossbar challenge.

extended

Saracens were 3-0 up at the interval courtesy of a penalty from Farrell and they extended their advantage with a beautifully crafted try from Saull six minutes into the second half.

After approach work from Farrell and Ernst Joubert, Saull raced onto Neil de Kock's clever offload. The flanker was brought to his knees but had enough momentum to stretch for the line and touch down.

With Saracens on top, Henson was sent on for Michael Tagicakibau and almost marked his arrival with a try. Wasps tried to run the ball from inside their own 22, but their timing was poor and the ball rebounded up off Steve Kefu for Henson.

But Simpson recovered quickly and somehow managed to get himself between Henson and the Wembley turf to deny the Wales international a dream comeback.

Henson spent most of his action in defence as Wasps cranked up the pressure and two Walder penalties drew them back into touching distance. But Saracens held firm and sealed an important victory.

Irish Independent

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