Small victory for Henson as ban is reduced by three weeks

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The Wales and Ospreys centre Gavin Henson last night had his 10-week-and-two-day suspension reduced by exactly three weeks at an appeal hearing in Dublin.

A three-man panel reassessed his offence as mid-range, then determined that there were no aggravating factors and took into consideration various mitigating factors before re-grading the ban to seven weeks and two days.

The ban ends on midnight on Sunday 12 February, the day Wales host Scotland in the Six Nations Championship, meaning Henson will not be free to play. However, he will be available for Wales in their third Six Nations match, against Ireland in Dublin on 26 February.

Henson was banned at a disciplinary hearing just before Christmas after being found guilty of elbowing the Leicester prop Alex Moreno, a further charge of aiming a kick at the Argentinian was dismissed.

Henson has already served two weeks of the ban and will still miss the match against England at Twickenham, as well as the Scotland game in Cardiff, and it also means the Ospreys do not gain any benefit from this small victory.

Last night, an Ospreys spokesman said: "We are still disappointed with the outcome, but it has vindicated our decision to appeal." If the appeal had been lost, the three-man panel would have been in its rights to increase the sentence to 12 weeks.

The former New Zealand fly-half Andrew Mehrtens, who now plays for National League One leaders Harlequins, is reported to be thinking of obtaining South African citizenship in order to avoid being classed as an overseas player in this country.

Mehrtens, who scored 967 points for the All Blacks in 70 Tests, was born in Durban and, if he is successful, he would then become a Kolpak player and thus allow Harlequins ­ rumoured to be at the head of the queue to sign retired All Black captain Tana Umaga ­ to bring in another overseas player.

Gloucester yesterday appointed the former Wigan coach Denis Betts, 36, as skills and development coach. Betts, who starts work at Kingsholm immediately, said: "It will be a tough challenge but I will be working on a broad spectrum that incorporates skills, attack and defence."

The Sale back-row forward Jason White has been reappointed to captain Scotland throughout their forthcoming Six Nations campaign.

Scotland's opening fixture of the Championship is a tough one, against France at Murrayfield on Sunday 5 September, but the 6ft 5in White, who made his debut as a lock against Ireland in September 2001, will have a special reason to savour the moment he leads his men out ­ he will be winning his 50th cap.

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