Henson's career looks over after Blues sacking
Centre pays price for drunken misdeeds to leave his future in top-level rugby in doubt
"I'm not getting any younger, I'm playing for a contract ... this is it, really." So said the much travelled, much troubled Gavin Henson before his debut for Cardiff Blues in late December and as the Blues must now be added to his long list of former clubs, that may very well be that. The celebrity centre was sacked yesterday after a heavily publicised night on the sauce in Glasgow, followed by some drunken antics with some ice cubes on the flight home. Unfortunately for him, his apology cut no ice with his employers.
The Lions midfielder signed an eight-month contract with the Blues in October following a painfully drawn-out departure from Ospreys, a brief and deeply unsatisfying fling with Saracens and a high-profile move to the French Top 14 club Toulon that ended after a booze-driven ruckus with clubmates in a Riviera nightspot. It may not have been the long-term deal Henson was seeking, but it turned out to be plenty long enough for the Blues who, after a management board meeting, decided to write off the last two months of the agreement.
"Gavin admitted himself that his behaviour was totally unacceptable and the immediate termination of his contract sends out a clear message that behaviour like that will not be tolerated at the Blues," said the club's chief executive Richard Holland. "We have a duty to our supporters and sponsors to protect the good name of Cardiff Blues and those associated with our brand."
Holland went on to thank Henson for his services at Cardiff – he had made just eight appearances for the club, two of them off the bench – and wish him "the best of luck" with his future career.
That career is at least as likely to be in broadcasting as in rugby: perhaps more so, given the high value placed on notoriety in the peculiar world of "reality" television, on which the 30-year-old player from Bridgend has made a mark in recent years.
Certainly, it is difficult to imagine another of the Welsh regions taking a punt on him; still less one of the Premiership teams in England. France, where the cash-rich elite clubs have been barely touched by the eurozone crisis, might offer some possibilities, but with the problems at Toulon still fresh in the memory, Henson is not an easy sell even there.
This latest incident may not come as a complete shock to those who have watched his career unfold, but it is none the less deflating for that. As Holland acknowledged, Henson is a rich talent – indeed, he might well have made the Wales squad for last year's World Cup, but for a wrist injury suffered in a warm-up game against England – and there remains something in Henson that yearns to make a go of it in a sport he seemed capable of mastering, even dominating, when he won his early caps as a Swansea player.
"I'd like to think I'm a good rugby player and I want to be involved with Wales again," he said before Christmas. "I've missed Wales – not just playing for the national team, but everything to do with living in the country. It's my home."
Depressingly, he no longer has a home in a game he patently loves, even if he has done it precious few favours of late. If this is the last the union code sees of him, the prevailing sense will be one of waste.
Some of England's high-profile players have had their problems of late, both on and off the field: the Harlequins scrum-half Danny Care was thrown out of the Six Nations squad following two drink-related entanglements with the law, while the Northampton hooker Dylan Hartley is serving an eight-week ban after being found guilty of biting an opponent.
Hartley's clubmate, the uncapped flanker Calum Clark, has been suspended until November for leaving the Leicester hooker Rob Hawkins with a fractured elbow.
Yesterday, another England half-back was up before the bench. Ben Youngs of Leicester admitted striking the talented young London Irish forward Jamie Gibson with his knee during a Premiership game last month and was banned for a week. As the Tigers imposed their own suspension after the incident, Youngs will miss no more rugby.
Henson's autobiography is published – the fly-half has to apologise to team-mates for comments made.
Henson is charged with disorderly conduct after behaviour on a train – the case was later dropped.
Henson cautioned by police "in relation to an incident" following an alleged assault in Cardiff.
Henson plays for Saracens after an 18-month break from the game, during which he appeared on TV.
Released by Saracens to join Toulon.
Henson is suspended for two weeks by Toulon, and later released, following an incident on a night out.
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