Gavin Henson is finally fit and excited to make Exiles debut


Foremost among the many assumptions ahead of the start of this domestic campaign was that newly promoted London Welsh could not possibly win a game without Gavin Henson performing like the world-beater he looked like being before his career disappeared down the celebrity plughole. So much for assumption.

The Exiles have already nailed two victories and generally surprised the hell out of everyone, despite losing the "orange one" to injury in a pre-season friendly.

When they meet Saracens at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford tomorrow, Henson will finally bring his undeniably blinding skills – along with his undeniably blinding tan – to the Premiership party. He replaces Gordon Ross at outside-half and even if his distribution is a little rusty, he should at least make a significant impact in a couple of important areas: defence being one of them, goal-kicking being the other.

Rather like Danny Cipriani, a fellow lost talent who tends to rediscover the best of himself when he has the former England boss Brian Ashton in his ear, Henson responds most positively to one particular coach – in his case, the inspirational Lyn Jones, with whom he worked productively at Ospreys before the 2005 Lions tour of New Zealand. It was Jones's presence at London Welsh that persuaded Henson to take one last shot at professional club rugby after calamitous flirtations with Saracens, Toulon and Cardiff Blues, and it is Jones who believes most strongly that this arrangement can work.

Henson suffered a cheekbone fracture while playing against Scarlets in late August and was not expected to feature in the Exiles' senior side until the Amlin Challenge Cup meeting with the Parisian club Stade Français in a week's time. "The injury was disappointing and frustrating," said the outside-half, who will be partnered by the rather less celebrated Tyson Keats tomorrow. "However, the boys have done really well in the first five games and I cannot wait to start playing my part with the rest of the team."

The chances of London Welsh taking so much as a losing bonus point out of a side as hard-bitten as Saracens would have seemed outrageously fanciful as recently as a month ago, but even if Henson's return proves fruitless, the Exiles will be in a better than expected place after the first tranche of Premiership fixtures. Jones can even rest some of his form players over the forthcoming European fortnight in preparation for the autumn international window.

Over the last decade, teams have needed something in the region of 34 points to avoid relegation. London Welsh are slightly ahead of the game, arithmetically speaking, but a rough spell between now and Christmas would leave them in the perilous position of requiring a grandstand finish from a fast-tiring squad. Better to strike while the iron is hot. Over to you, Gav.

Premiership: Weekend team news

Exeter v Harlequins

Sentiment is in short supply in Devon, where two senior forwards, the captain Tom Hayes and the flanker James Scaysbrook, find themselves rested after 49 consecutive Premiership starts. Wallaby lock Dean Mumm makes his debut, while Quins travel in "risk" mode with Danny Care and Joe Marler on the bench.

Gloucester v Bath

Kingsholm's sandpaper-voiced choristers will be in full voice in the hope that Freddie Burns, the form outside-half in the country, can put one over the visitors from his home city. Bath have lost their skipper Stuart Hooper to injury; Gloucester have the All Black scrum-half Jimmy Cowan on the bench.

London Irish v Northampton

The table-topping visitors may be without their outstanding hooker Dylan Hartley, but they think an awful lot of the youngster Mike Haywood, who fills in today. Irish, in dire need of answers after a run of wretched performances, shift Steven Shingler to full-back and the multi-tasking Matt Garvey to the back row.

London Welsh v Saracens

Leaving aside the Gavin Henson fandango, the notable news from the Exiles is that Mike Denbee, a low-profile flanker whose name may yet end up in lights, is back from injury. Saracens have some intriguing combinations: Charlie Hodgson and Owen Farrell in midfield, Will Fraser and Andy Saull on the flanks.

Wasps v Worcester

An important game for the Londoners, who started the campaign in the full flush of optimism but are finding victories hard to come by. Their captain Hugo Southwell returns, but Worcester have been scoring unusually heavily and know what it is to win at Adams Park.

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas