Calf injury ends Henson's Six Nations hopes

Click to follow
The Independent Online

It would have been more in keeping with Gavin Henson's lovingly constructed public image if he had ruled himself out of the forthcoming Six Nations Championship by tripping over a loose sequin on the dance floor – or, more perilously still, being trodden on by Ann Widdecombe at the business end of an unusually passionate tango.

Instead, his latest downfall is more prosaic. Welsh rugby's prodigal son tore a calf muscle during Saracens' fruitless Heineken Cup trip to Dublin on Saturday and will not play again for at least three weeks.

Henson's prospects of an immediate recall to the Wales squad after some 18 months of sporting inactivity – his comeback at Saracens is barely under way in any meaningful sense – were always remote, although last week's injury news surrounding the Ospreys centre Andrew Bishop pushed his name back into the frame. Now, the issue is settled. The Six Nations begins a fortnight on Friday, when England visit Cardiff, and although the tournament stretches into mid-March, it is inconceivable that the Lions midfielder will play enough rugby to challenge for a place.

Warren Gatland, the Wales coach, still has Jamie Roberts and James Hook available to him, and provided they stay fit, they will be warm favourites to form the centre pairing against England. As Jonathan Davies' star turn for Scarlets against Leicester three days ago also registered with the Red Dragon hierarchy, Henson now faces an uphill battle in terms of World Cup selection.

Saracens were heavily defeated by Leinster at the Royal Dublin Showground, and paid a heavy price into the bargain. Michael Tagicakibau, who started the game ahead of Henson, will also miss the next tranche of club fixtures after tearing a hamstring, while the club's most experienced locks, Hugh Vyvyan and Steve Borthwick, also picked up injuries. Vyvyan has a sprained ankle and is not expected to play for a fortnight while Borthwick, the former England captain, was having his mangled shoulder scanned yesterday.

Italy, who face England at Twickenham in the second round of Six Nations games, have been forced to omit Mauro Bergamasco, the long-serving flanker and occasional scrum-half – very occasional, thanks to his comically bad performance in London a couple of seasons back – although the coach Nick Mallett has left himself room for manoeuvre by naming only 24 players in his initial squad. He plans to revisit the selection when the competition takes the first of its breathers in the middle of February.

Bergamasco is injured, as is the first-choice No 10 Craig Gower, and their absences have created space for two candidates from the Treviso club: the back-row forward Paul Derbyshire, born on Italian soil whatever his name might suggest, and the outside-half Kristopher Burton, who hails from Brisbane.