Ospreys cool rumours of Henson departure

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The Independent Online

Kevin Hopkins, the Ospreys' director of rugby, said he was not at all surprised that Gavin Henson was the centre of attention. For the second week running Hopkins felt compelled to deliver a character reference on behalf of the Wales international after it was reported that Widnes were keen to sign him even though Henson seems to be establishing a reputation for being as accident-prone as Humpty Dumpty.

"He's our player and we're happy with his contribution," Hopkins said. "We've got a good squad and the last thing we want is to reduce the quality of it. This season Gavin has shown how much quality he's got. There's no doubt that he's returned to his best. It doesn't shock me that clubs are interested in him. It was the Llanelli Scarlets one month, Sale another and now apparently it's Widnes." The Ospreys said they had not received a formal approach from the rugby league club and Hopkins added: "Gavin's not going anywhere."

That's not strictly true. One place he's going is Cardiff Magistrates Court where he and three friends will appear next month after being charged with disorderly conduct by the British Transport Police following allegations of a disturbance on the London to Cardiff train on Sunday 2 December. A few hours earlier Henson had scored all his side's points in a victory over Harlequins at the Stoop which put them into the semi-finals of the EDF Energy Cup. During the match he broke a bone in his left hand.

Over the weekend the Wales prop Rhys Thomas and his Newport-Gwent Dragons team-mate Rhodri Gomer Davies were detained by police in Treviso and subsequently cautioned after a fracas outside a nightclub. Earlier the Dragons had gained a narrow victory over the Italian club. Warren Gatland, the new Wales coach, denied there was a "drinking culture" in Welsh rugby. "I have no problem with players having a couple of beers," he said, "but I don't want to see incidents in the media as a result." There would, he said, be no prohibition.

The prospects of Henson joining Widnes are as likely as Jonny Wilkinson joining Newcastle United although whether rugby union's highest earner will remain with Newcastle Falcons when his contract expires next summer is unclear.

The sudden departure from Kingston Park of Steve Black appears to have deprived Wilkinson of, not just a fitness coach, but his guru, mentor, soulmate and father confessor. "Blackie's the best at what he does by a country mile," the England stand-off told Radio Five Live. "He adds so much to everyone he works with. He's the person who helps me grow as an individual and helps me understand things. I'd go to him for advice about everything."

Black left Newcastle by "mutual consent" and the club refuses to elaborate.

"There's no one I'm closer to in the world of professional sport," Wilkinson added. "He is part of my life and it can't be removed like a piece of a jigsaw. It's way beyond that. He's been there from day dot. Our future is invested in each other and there are loads of different directions togo together in the rest of our lives."

If this sounds like the makings of a fond farewell, Wilkinson added that he had been "so so happy" at Newcastle. "It was somewhere for me to get better and develop and make things happen." And his future? "I always assess everything and I'll do exactly the same thing."

Black was equally loyal. "Jonny's my pal and I'll always be there for him," he said. "Nothing I'll do in the future will affect our relationship."

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