Gavin Henson was last night involved in talks which the Ospreys – and, for that matter, the rest of Wales – were hoping would stop him from turning his back on rugby. A high-powered trio, including new coach Scott Johnson, were desperately trying to persuade Henson to return to training with the region.
Henson, however, did not take part in the Ospreys' first pre-season practice session in Llandarcy yesterday and it is understood he went into the meeting planning on informing his employers of his decision to take a break from the game. The situation may have been complicated somewhat by Henson's contractual obligations.
As well as Johnson, the Ospreys chief executive, Mike Cuddy, was around the table as was the elite performance director, Andrew Hore. Henson worked with both Johnson and Hore in the national set-up a few years ago and both were understandably keen to point out to the player just what he would be giving up.
At 27, Henson is the same age as Barry John when he decided to retire in the 1970s and although the former has yet to taste either the success or the adulation of the latter, it is known that Henson is fed up with his "goldfish bowl" life. His persistent knee and Achilles problems have clearly taken their toll, although the continued controversy he attracts may have had just a big a part to play in his current disillusionment.
Over the years there have been arguments with fellow players – who have often viewed him as a loner – and repeated headlines for all the wrong reasons. Henson is essentially a shy individual, whose insecurities have been masked by the hair gel, the sun-tan, the shaved legs and the apparent thirst for a celebrity lifestyle. Now Henson is believed to be tempted by the less complicated life he could enjoy as simply the husband of the singer Charlotte Church and the father of their two young children.
The Wales team management have been fearful of such an eventuality for a while with Warren Gatland, the coach who has often referred to Henson as "world-class", admitting that the media attention surrounding his private life could eventually prove too much. And just before the end of the season Henson confessed that he thought of "walking away".
At the end of May, The Independent reported that Henson did not want to rush back from injury to play on Wales' tour to North America and neither did he wish to make a late charge for the Lions tour. He was thought to be lacking hunger.
The Ospreys were making no comment last night, but reports suggested that Henson was intending to go on a protracted sailing holiday with Ms Church, with whom he has recently purchased a yacht. The Bridgend-born Henson watched the Celtic Crusaders' 25-12 Super League win over Salford at the Brewery Field on Saturday, when he allegedly told friends of his decision.
Henson played in three of Wales' games in the 2009 Six Nations, but played a full part in both the 2005 and 2008 Welsh Grand Slams. He has won 31 caps for Wales and scored 130 points.
Welsh wonder: Gavin's brief career
*Born in Bridgend in 1982, Henson joined Swansea at 18 and was named IRB young player of the year. He signed for Ospreys in 2003 and made his Wales debut against Japan.
*A Celtic Cup win in 2005 preceded his influential role in Wales' first Six Nations Grand Slam in 27 years. He was chosen for the Lions' tour but was criticised for comments about players and coaches in his book.
*A knee injury kept him out of the 2007 Six Nations and World Cup but he returned to help Wales to another Grand Slam in 2008.Reuse content