Henson's Wasps link infuriates Ospreys
If Gavin Henson can cause this much trouble when the only thing he is likely to wrestle off his opposite number is a handful of sequins, heaven only knows what will happen if and when the celebrity centre returns to professional rugby. The budding ballroom dancer's alleged flirtation with Wasps – publicly denied by the club, albeit in language that suggested there might be something in it – is generating all manner of fury in his native Wales, with the Ospreys' director of coaching Scott Johnson more apoplectic than most.
Johnson is demanding some clarity from the Welsh Rugby Union on international selection policy regarding individuals playing outside the country. "We need to know where we stand, which is not too much to ask," said the Australian. "It's been pretty clear what our union has been telling us about how we're to run our business: they've talked about the lure of the Welsh jersey and stated that people should play in Wales. If players are going to be allowed to cross the border and still play for the national team, it will be an open market and our budget levels will have to go up. We have monetary issues to consider and we need to know the mandate."
Henson has been on unpaid leave from Ospreys for more than a year. By some distance the most successful of the Welsh regions, the Swansea-based side believe they have shown their troubled midfielder patience and sympathy beyond the call of duty and are understandably infuriated by reports of a dalliance with Wasps, the London side who recently signed another "problem player", the Test No 8 Andrew Powell, from Cardiff Blues and also have the Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards on their staff. As far as Ospreys are concerned, Henson is still under contract and is not at liberty to go anywhere.
Edwards' strong links with Wasps – links shared by the head coach Warren Gatland, who enjoyed a successful spell with the club between 2002 and 2005 – can only make a bad situation worse in the eyes of those Ospreys supporters who would prefer to see a high-calibre performer like Henson playing for anyone but the "bloody English". The result could be a breakdown in trust between the front-line coaches and a group of players already angered by the WRU's spellbindingly crass decision to use Henson as their principal poster boy in a marketing campaign to maximise sales of the new national jersey.
One Magners League player whose heart is very much in the right place, the Lions flanker Stephen Ferris, yesterday agreed fresh terms with Ulster and will stay at Ravenhill until June 2013. "It means everything," said Ferris, who could have had his pick of top English or French clubs had he signalled a desire to move. "This is home, I was born and raised here, Ulster are the team I've always followed and I don't want to leave without winning something." Loyalty? Commitment? How unfashionable.
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