Strictly Come Dancing will dictate Henson's Barbarians involvement

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The Independent Online

The chances of Gavin Henson representing the Barbarians in December hinge on whether he is more like former England scrum-half Matt Dawson or fellow Welshman Joe Calzaghe on the Saturday night dancefloor.

The Wales centre, who is on unpaid leave from Welsh regional side the Ospreys, has accepted an invitation to play for the Barbarians against South Africa on December 4 but he would be ruled out if he is still going strong in Strictly Come Dancing.

Baa-Baas registrar Alan Evans told BBC Radio Five Live yesterday: "We are going to monitor the situation closely. One of two things could happen - Gavin could turn out to be another Matt Dawson and he'll still be dancing on December 4, and good luck to him with that.

"But what we have offered him is the opportunity - if he turns out to be more, shall we say, a Joe Calzaghe than a Matt Dawson in 'Strictly...' and he's out of it fairly early on, we think the situation with his rugby career will take a new turn and we would like to bring him on board and train him with our top-notch squad."

Dawson reached the final of the competition in 2006 but Calzaghe did not fare so well, coming in for some harsh criticism from the show's judges en route to a relatively early exit. The live series runs until the Christmas period.

The 28-year-old Henson 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 him.

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 playmaker'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."