The most improved player I've seen in the Heineken Cup so far this season has been Gavin Henson of the Neath-Swansea Ospreys - and I don't say that because he's a Welsh outside-half.
For a start, he's nothing like a traditional outside-half. He's a thoroughly modern player with the strengths in every department a player needs these days. And although he's a natural No 10 he is playing at 12 which is another modern development and one I favour. He is capable of playing anywhere but he has settled into playing regularly at inside-centre for the Ospreys and Wales and you can see the beneficial effect it is having.
Because we've produced more than our fair share, the Welsh tend to take more notice of outside-halves and we've had our eyes on Henson for some time. He has always looked a promising player but, for one reason or another, we've had our doubts whether he would make it to the very top.
This season he has been throwing those doubts, one by one, back into our faces and it is becoming increasingly clear that he has got it all. He's a big lump and deceptively strong and quick. He tackles very well, kicks and drops goals from anywhere and hoofs it out of his hands a massive distance. He has another crucial ability; he likes to be the key player, to run the show and be at the heart of everything.
You can only cash in on that skill if you are settled in your position and we've seen the results for both Wales and the Ospreys. He scored two tries against South Africa and played very well against the All Blacks but it was against Harlequins in the Heineken Cup last weekend that he really showed he is the complete package.
He looked so comfortable with his surroundings, so in command. It was the best all-round individual display I've seen for a long time. He scored two excellent tries and made another. The fact that he was playing against the experienced England international Will Greenwood didn't seem to bother him.
In his earlier days we were worried about his attitude but now that he is knuckling down to producing his full game his temperament and control are near perfect. He has an astute football brain and has great awareness of the people around him.
It has been said that the presence of Iestyn Harris in the Welsh team hampered his progress. I think it is a shame that they're not playing together now. Credit has to be given to Lyn Jones at the Ospreys for bringing Henson on so well. I know the region is alive to the fact that his contract expires in 18 months time and they won't make the mistake that Llanelli made in losing Stephen Jones to the French.
Here's a player you can build a great team around and he brings a valuable asset to the business of winning rugby matches. Too often, Wales and their regions have lost games they could have won because they lacked the belief and expertise to close a game down.
Henson knows what to do to win and, although I don't like keeping on about the Lions, he is worthy of partnering Brian O'Driscoll in New Zealand next year.Reuse content