Gavin Henson's hopes of Wales return hit by Bath's refusal to play ball
Club refuse to let their centre take part in old-style Probables v Possibles match ahead of next month's two-Test series in South Africa
Gavin Henson has been something of a trial to his employers down the years – Ospreys, Cardiff Blues, Toulon and Bath have all had reason to wonder whether the celebrity centre is more trouble than he is worth – so there is something deeply ironic about the fact that he is about to miss a trial through no fault of his own.
Henson has not played for Wales in almost three years, but his selection for the old-style Probables v Possibles match ahead of next month's two-Test series in South Africa gives him a platform from which to launch a comeback. At least, it would if he was free to participate.
As things stand, Bath will not make either Henson or the prop Paul James available for the hastily arranged fixture, scheduled for the Liberty Stadium in Swansea a fortnight on Friday. Similarly, there is no prospect of Leicester giving the fast-developing playmaker Owen Williams the go-ahead to take part, or Saracens freeing the front-rower Rhys Gill for the game. Premier Rugby, the top-flight English clubs' administrative body, made it clear that as the trial match was not covered by regulations relating to international player release, there was no good reason to support it.
Ryan Jones, a long-serving Wales international and one of the most popular figures in the game, is also at risk: he has just joined second-tier Bristol, who are in the thick of a tough promotion play-off campaign, and is likely to be held back by his new club. The single exception among the Welshmen exiled in England is the Lions wing George North, who may take part if Northampton fail to reach the Premiership final on 31 May.
The issue over North's contract with the Midlanders, who broke ranks by guaranteeing his release for all Wales internationals and were landed with a one-off fine of £60,000 by a Premiership Rugby disciplinary panel as a result, was thrashed out before Christmas and will not be revisited.
The Wales selectors, led by head coach Warren Gatland, are now waiting to hear from France, where a number of other exiles – the centre Jamie Roberts, the scrum-half Mike Phillips and the flanker Dan Lydiate among them – are earning their corn. The trial was organised to bridge the gap between the end of the club season and departure for Springbok country.
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