Henson is back in a Wales shirt but no closer to a return to action

If anyone still gave a tinker's cuss whether Gavin Henson might be seen in a Wales shirt again, they were given their answer yesterday when the poor lost soul of the Red Dragon game reappeared, as if by magic, as the poster-boy of a marketing campaign to promote a new, heavily-sponsored kit deal. The question that stayed unanswered was whether the Grand Slam-winning midfielder would actually play again. On this subject, his thoughts remained almost as impenetrable as his fake tan.

It is now more than a year since Henson began his self-imposed exile from the sport – he has been on unpaid leave from Ospreys since last summer – and while he has recently been heard talking about playing at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, his television commitments with the BBC will make it extremely difficult for him to return to professional rugby this side of Christmas. The 28-year-old centre will spend the next few weeks twinkle-toeing his way round the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom, and while this may be considered good exercise, it does not mean a fat lot when it comes to handling Ma'a Nonu or Mathieu Bastareaud in the heat of battle.

Especially cringeworthy was the Welsh Rugby Union's decision to quote Henson saying: "When the WRU asked me to be one of the first to put on the new kit... I had no hesitation. As a passionate Welshman, I have always felt a great sense of pride whenever I have had the privilege of being able to wear the national jersey, and this occasion was no different." Exasperated members of the sporting public who gave up on the celebrity centre long ago could be heard spluttering loudly into their pint glasses.

While Henson is still theoretically an Osprey, albeit a wholly disinterested one, he has recently been linked with two Premiership clubs, Wasps and Harlequins. The latter dismissed any notion that they might bring the Lions midfielder to the Stoop, but the former champions have not publicly rejected the idea. Significantly, Shaun Edwards is a member of the Wasps coaching staff, as well as the Wales one.

It is true to say that Warren Gatland, the head coach of Wales, would give his eye teeth to have a fit, focused, properly motivated Henson back in his midfield: the man is, after all, among the more gifted players of his generation. He has baggage, though, and now he can wear the jersey of his dreams without having to tackle anyone, would any amount of money tempt him back?

Over in New Zealand, structural engineers have completed their checks on the new Lancaster Park stadium in Christchurch and declared it unaffected by the heavy earthquake that struck the city at the weekend. England, Scotland, Australia and Argentina are all listed to play pool matches at the venue, which will also host two quarter-finals. The organisers' relief at yesterday's clean bill of health was palpable.

They are more concerned about the building of a new stadium in Dunedin, where England will play a pool match against the winner of November's repechage play-off between Romania and Uruguay. "There has been a big spend by New Zealand on new facilities and we're pretty much on top of things," said Martin Snedden, the tournament's chief executive. "Dunedin is the issue. It will be a fully enclosed stadium with a roof, and it is not scheduled for completion until five weeks before the competition begins. The roof is the big challenge, and work on that begins soon. If there are problems, we'll be a little concerned about meeting the deadline. At least we still have the old Carisbrook stadium as a stand-by."

Tickets for individual matches were going on sale today after a spell of brisk block-booking business. "Of the 1.65m tickets available across all games, we've already sold 500,000," Snedden said. "Twenty per cent of those sales have gone offshore, with interest in England and Ireland very high. As things stand, English support is second behind that of the All Blacks, with the Irish in third. It's a pretty good take-up, given that it's a hell of a way for people to come, especially when there's a recession on. And now supporters can buy tickets for specific games, we're expecting a sharp increase in interest from Australia."

Snedden said he was still budgeting for a loss of NZ$39m (£18m) on the tournament, but emphasised that the New Zealand government was covering two-thirds of that sum.

PROMOTED VIDEO
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
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links