Henson accepts Barbarians invitation

Wales centre Gavin Henson is set to make his return to rugby after accepting an invitation to play for the Barbarians against South Africa at Twickenham in December.

The controversial Ospreys back has not played since March 2009 after suffering an ankle injury in an Anglo-Welsh Cup defeat against Gloucester and then opting to go on unpaid leave.



The 28-year-old, who is currently appearing on the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing programme, has been linked with moves to several Aviva Premiership clubs including Wasps, London Irish, Harlequins and Bath. All have denied having any discussions over a move for Henson.



He was also recently selected to model the new Wales kit in a marketing campaign, upsetting several members of the current national squad.



But he now appears ready to finally lace up a pair of boots again, having voiced his desire to play for his country at next year's World Cup in New Zealand, although the Barbarians will monitor the 31-cap three-quarter's fitness ahead of the Twickenham clash.



Barbarians' contracts manager Mike Burton said, "All the signs are that we are putting together a very strong squad worthy of such a prestigious occasion.



"Obviously our invitation to Gavin will attract a lot of attention. He has other commitments outside rugby and he is conscious of the need for match fitness in order to do himself and the club justice.



"We will be in regular contact with him and his home club, the Ospreys, in the next few weeks and, all being well, our big game at Twickenham will be the first opportunity to see him back on the representative stage."



Henson will be joined in the Baa-Baas squad by Ospreys team-mate Mike Phillips while Australia's Rocky Elsom and Matt Giteau, who played in the invitational club's win over the world champion Springboks in 2007 and against New Zealand last autumn, will also appear.

Former Saracens and New Zealand lock Chris Jack is another returning face for the traditional end-of-tour fixture, with a handful of his compatriots set to be announced next month.



South Africa will face Tests against Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England as part of their Grand Slam tour, before finishing up against the Barbarians who, as was the case against New Zealand, will be coached by Italy boss Nick Mallett and Alan Solomons.



Barbarians' president Micky Steele-Bodger said, "Both Nick and Alan made a big impression in the week that they were with us last December and we had no hesitation in inviting them back to work with our squad again.



"Both have a great empathy with the traditions of the club and we know they will do us proud."



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