Ruck and Maul: Not to be outdone as a pin-up, Henson decides not to turn up
Sunday 12 October 2008
The joke in Wales is that Gavin Henson was getting sick and tired of Danny Cipriani hogging the tabloid headlines so he reverted to type. The perma-tanned wonder returned last week after being out for six months with an ankle injury but he was none too impressive in the Ospreys' lacklustrelast-minute win over a seriously diluted Harlequins in the EDF Energy Cup.
The coaches made their feelings known and Henson, who has previous form, missed a training session and copped a two-match ban. The club only said that it was a "rugby-related disciplinary decision". It was a brave one, for Henson, a star in a stellar squad, misses the Ospreys' tough Heineken Cup openers against Leicester today and then Perpignan.
Nor does it enhance his chances of returning for Wales. He will have only two matches, if that, to impress Warren Gatland before Wales tackle the Springboks. He has not impressed Andrew Hore, Ospreys' elite performance director, who has introduced a strict code of conduct. "I fully accept the decision," Henson said. "I reacted poorly to feedback from the coaches and took unauthorised leave." In Hore v Henson, the mega-centre must realise there is only one winner.
It is as well that Henson and Cipriani, both stalkers of controversy, do not play for the same team, otherwise Max Clifford would have tobe employed on a full-time basis. Of all the players to smack in the mouth duringa training session, Josh Lewsey just had to pick Cipriani.
Forrester is cut down in prime
The premature retirement of James Forrester at 27 is profoundly depressing for Gloucester, England and the game. He was one of the quickest No 8s in the business – witness three hat-tricks of tries. He won two England caps back in 2005 but his career was interrupted by shoulder and elbow injuries.
The killer blow, though, was a knee condition that kept him out for all of last season. He consulted Bill Knowles, the American specialist who looked after Charlie Hodgson and Richard Hill. "I demanded more of myself than I thought possible," Forrester said, "but I've been forced to make the hardest decision any player will ever have to make."
He faces another operation which would have put him out for an extra eight months. "Being forced to retire through injury is a devastating way to leave the game, especially at such an early age," Damian Hopley, the chief executive of the Professional Rugby Players' Association, said. He should know. Hopley was in his prime when a knee injury ended his career and he fought a bitter battle with the RFU over compensation. "We will continue to support James as he adjusts to life beyond rugby," Hopley added.
Best diagnosis for Haskell
James Haskell, another outstanding loose forward, also feared a life without rugby after being gouged by Neil Best when Wasps played Northampton. He suffered a corneal abrasion and a specialist warned he could be blinded in one eye. Fortunately that is not the case. "It's not perfect yet but I can read the bottom line of an eye test," Haskell said. "Players try and grab at anything and everything to move you out of a ruck or maul. If I'd lost my sight, it would have been a different issue, but the player got caught, got punished and that's the end of the story." Best lost his appeal against an 18-week ban after it was confirmed that he had pulled Haskell's head up by the eye socket.
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