Gavin Henson has not always endeared himself to the Welsh rugby public – nor, indeed, to his colleagues in the national team. Yet there is not a man Jack of them who would have wished this on him. The celebrity centre looked like a real centre for the half-hour he spent on the field against England at the Millennium Stadium at the weekend, but his hopes and dreams of participating in next month's World Cup evaporated when he fractured a bone in his right wrist.
Henson underwent surgery yesterday and will be out of action for between six and eight weeks. Even if he completes his recovery sooner, rather than later, it is difficult to see him playing a meaningful part in the campaign – a bitter blow to a gifted performer who has yet to make an appearance at a global tournament, having been overlooked in 2003 and found wanting for fitness in 2007.
Wales have injuries in most areas: front row, back row, half-back, midfield and out wide. At least two big-name players, the full-back Lee Byrne and the wing Leigh Halfpenny, are expected to return to the side for this week's warm-up game with Argentina, but there is no clear indication whether the props Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones, the back-five forward Ryan Jones or the outside-half Stephen Jones – Lions Test caps all – will be ready to face the Pumas at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
Sadly, there are very strong suggestions that another Lions, the hooker and recent national captain Matthew Rees, will miss the tournament with a neck problem.
"We have to forget about the World Cup, forget about rugby and make the best decision for Matthew," said the Wales coach Warren Gatland, who played hooker himself and knows what it is to suffer from neck issues. "It's pretty difficult when you're in a lot of pain and you can't sleep. I've been there myself."
Gatland must now hope and pray that the Ospreys hooker Richard Hibbard has recovered sufficiently from summer surgery to make the long trip to New Zealand.
The Welsh are not the only ones fretting over the fitness of key personnel. France lost their star centre, Maxime Mermoz of Perpignan, to an ankle injury while beating Ireland in Bordeaux on Saturday night – the injury-prone midfielder is expected to be sidelined for at least a fortnight – while the reigning world champions South Africa have concerns over their captain John Smit, who damaged his arm during the Tri-Nations loss to Australia in Durban. However, Springbok insiders say Smit is certain to travel.
England, meanwhile, left Cardiff with a reasonably clean bill of health, even though they had nothing else to show for their efforts. Toby Flood, who endured a difficult day at outside-half, used the words "embarrassing" and "shameful" to describe the team's tryless performance, while the No 8 Nick Easter admitted that he and his colleagues had "not been smart enough in possession".Reuse content