Wales offer Henson another last chance

 

Gavin Henson has yet another chance to stake his claim for Wales despite having made only nine first-class starting appearances in almost three years and having been dropped from this weekend's Heineken Cup decider by the Blues. Warren Gatland warned, however, that if the utility back "is not up to speed" he will not appear in the final Six Nations squad.

Gatland named Henson in the 35-strong party who will take part in the training camp in Poland next week, which will ape the preparations for last year's World Cup. The shrewd Kiwi did so anticipating the resulting hype. "You do ask yourself if it is worth the hassle of selecting Gavin because of the interest and speculation you get from the media," said Gatland. But he is a long-time admirer of Henson and pointed to his contribution to the 2008 Grand Slam.

Nevertheless, Henson – who turns 30 in a fortnight – has only played three times for the Blues this season, after recovering from a wrist injury which kept him out the World Cup, and finds himself dumped from the Blues match-day 22 who will take on Racing Metro on Sunday.

After an unconvincing showing at No 12 last Saturday at London Irish, the words of Gareth Baber, the Blues coach, hardly inspires great hope of an imminent international return. While praising Henson for his professionalism since linking up with the region in November, Baber outlined his doubts. "He is probably not where I suppose the public and yourself want him to be," he told journalists. "He's had a while out of the game."

But Gatland remains committed to Henson, although the chances of him starting against Ireland in the Six Nations open two weeks on Sunday seem remote. "Centre is one of the positions we have depth," he said. "There was a long debate about Gavin: he was not the first name on our sheet, given the way we went in the midfield in the World Cup, but we will look at him because of his past reputation and sit down with him and see where his head is at. When he has been in our environment before, his attitude has always been spot on. But if he is not up to speed, he will not be selected further."

Gatland was clearly dismayed that his call-up of the Blues' Harry Robinson was being overshadowed by Henson. The 18-year-old wing has played only two senior matches.

Following George North's remarkably rapid rise to prominence the rugby world will be wary of the latest Welsh wonder kid. Gatland certainly did not talk Robinson down, although it would be a huge surprise if he makes the pared-down squad. "Harry is a bit like Jason Robinson in the way he darts around," said Gatland, who found no place for the veteran fly-half, Stephen Jones.

Gatland is aware of the challenge awaiting them in Dublin on the opening weekend. The Welsh squad head to the rigours of the Spala in Poland, aware the sessions will be intense regardless of their advancement to the World Cup semi-finals at the expense of Declan Kidney's side. "Ireland will go into the Six Nations with a lot of confidence," said Gatland, a former Irish coach. "Ulster's victory over Leicester last Friday was stunning. There will be a backlash because of the comprehensive victory we had over Ireland in the World Cup. Knowing the Irish as I do, they will be intent on revenge."

* It looks as though England winger Chris Ashton has reached a parting of the ways with Northampton after he reportedly stormed out of training this week following a heated argument with the club's director of rugby, Jim Mallinder. Ashton is set to be left out of the Saints' squad for the vital Heineken Cup home game against Munster on Saturday and it appears likely he has played his last game for the club. Northampton have been concerned with Ashton's attitude since he returned from the World Cup in the autumn and the 24-year-old, who started his career in rugby league with Wigan, has long been linked a move to Saracens. That transfer could now be completed as soon as next week.

Wales squad

Backs Mike Phillips, Lloyd Williams, Rhys Webb, Rhys Priestland, James Hook, Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies, Scott Williams, Gavin Henson, Ashley Beck, George North, Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, Harry Robinson, Liam Williams, Lee Byrne.

Forwards Craig Mitchell, Adam Jones, Ryan Bevington, Gethin Jenkins, Paul James, Rhys Gill, Rhodri Jones, Matthew Rees, Huw Bennett, Ken Owens, Bradley Davies, Ian Evans, Lou Reed, Ryan Jones, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton, Justin Tipuric, Toby Faletau, Andy Powell.

Gatland looks for year's leave to lead Lions

Warren Gatland stated his desire yesterday to lead the British Lions on their 2013 tour of Australia and claimed that his employers at the Welsh Rugby Union would not stand in his way, despite the necessity for him to be released for a year from his coaching duties.

Gatland was an assistant to Sir Ian McGeechan on the 2009 tour of South Africa and having been such an influence in that tour, which culminated in an agonising 2-1 loss in the Test series, the New Zealander is keen to go one better in Australia. He said: "2009 was a huge honour and if that opportunity came along again it would be fantastic."

Gatland is the front-runner for the Lions job and his obvious rivals are his counterparts with Ireland and Scotland, Declan Kidney and Andy Robinson. Whoever is named, probably in April, will have to square the appointment with his home union. Andy Irvine, the 2013 tour manager, has said that the head coach will be required "to be available effectively a year out".

That means Gatland would be ruled out of involvement in the November Tests and the 2013 Six Nations. He signed a contract extension last year, to take him up to the 2015 World Cup, and it is understood that this includes only a five-month break clause for him to be involved with the Lions.

Asked if the WRU would accept a far longer release, Gatland said:"I don't think there would be any negative hindrance."

James Corrigan

Suggested Topics
News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
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

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?