Aviva Premiership - Oval Talk: Henson should be Strictly for rugby

Eurosport - Tue, 14 Sep 10:20:00 2010

Talk of Gavin Henson returning to rugby looms large - but will he shed his dancing shoes in favour of boots in time for the World Cup?

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Oval Talk will make no secret of the fact it is a massive fan of Henson. Some people may be fooled by the tan, the silver boots and questionable choice of coiffeur; but he is a defensive mastermind and extremely tough player.

Shaun Edwards described him as "tough as old boots" and, coming from a man who played the 1990 Challenge Cup final with a broken cheekbone, that shouldn't be taken lightly.

He also cannot be accused of lacking commitment. When he was left out of the opening Test on the 2005 Lions tour he said he was "devastated not to be playing". So why does Henson get so much stick?

He's drawn criticism recently for fronting the launch of the new Wales rugby shirt despite not actually playing for his country since March 2009. As Henson appeared on a giant poster displayed on the Millennium Stadium, reports suggested that some current Wales internationals were far from impressed with his inclusion. When questioned about the matter Jamie Roberts said: "Welsh rugby is about more than just him."

OT does think Henson's inclusion is strange and understands why it would annoy current Welsh stars, but the blame should be laid at the door of the WRU for choosing Henson, not the player himself.

The next time we see Henson on our screens will be as part of the new Strictly Come Dancing line-up. As a result of this many people are questioning his commitment to rugby; however in a recent interview on the Strictly set Henson claimed: "I didn't really want to be doing this - I wanted to be back playing rugby."

So far from being an exercise in self promotion, it appears Henson is only taking to the dancefloor to pay the bills.

Then comes the thorny issue of Henson's club, the Ospreys, from whom he's been on voluntary unpaid leave for over a year. It seems he doesn't feel his future lies at the Welsh club, saying: "It's all up in the air, all in the solicitors' hands."

He has been linked with Wasps, where Wales team-mate Andy Powell plies his trade. However, unless Wasps are trying to win a prize for most centres at one club, OT believes that this rumour lacks substance.

Henson should honour the remaining few months of his Ospreys contract, given the patience and respect they have shown him at this troubled time in his career.

Henson is targeting a return in time for the 2011 World Cup, which is only a year away. Time is of the essence.

One saving grace in Henson's World Cup bid is the esteem in which Wales coaches Warren Gatland and Shaun Edwards hold him. Gatland said that if Henson wasn't to make a comeback it would be "a loss for the game". Edwards described him as "one of the best players I've ever coached".

Wales have never lost a Six Nations match that Henson has started - there have been 10 - and have won two of the other five he's been involved in.

Compare that to the last 30 games Wales have played in the tournament without him: 11 losses, one draw and only eight wins.

Henson's comeback should be applauded and welcomed with open arms. For a player as naturally gifted as Henson to have played his last matched aged just 27 would not just be a personal tragedy, but also one for rugby.

So OT urges you to not vote for Henson in Strictly so we can get him off the dancefloor and back where he belongs: on the rugby pitch.

OT's money is on Paul Daniels, if you're interested.


Play of the week: Normally known for his attacking prowess, Ben Foden put in a bone-crunching defensive performance for Northampton this weekend culminating in his last-minute try-saving tackle on Joe Marler.

The laws of physics were defied as Foden threw himself under the 17 stone-plus Marler and somehow stopped the charging prop grounding the ball for a match-winning try.

Ed Hoadley / Eurosport

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