Henson eager to seize lifeline
Cardiff - Gavin Henson has been handed a Rugby World Cup trial by
Wales as he bids to play in the showpiece tournament for the first time
in his career.
Henson will make his first Test appearance for more
than two years after he was named to face the Barbarians, arguably
rugby union's most famous invitational side, at the Millennium Stadium
The 29-year-old former golden boy of Welsh rugby has
not played at this level since March 2009 following his self-imposed
break from the game to pursue a television career amid injuries.
has made just four starts this season, for English Premiership
champions Saracens and last month for French giants Toulon, as he
attempts to rekindle the form that made the centre a British Lion in
2005 and force his way into the World Cup reckoning.
to be back," Henson, currently without a club, said Thursday as he
prepared to launch his bid to play in this year's World Cup in New
Zealand. "I am over the moon to get this chance - I have really missed
"I feel mentally refreshed. Yes, I would love to come into
this match on the back of 20 games under my belt or something, but
that's not the case.
"But I have got a chance here, and I will do
everything I can on Saturday to hopefully force my way into these August
internationals (Wales play England twice and Argentina), and then
looking forward to the World Cup.
"At this moment in time, Wales
is the most important thing for me. I have never been to a World Cup,
and this is my only chance to try to make it right. I want to do
everything I can.
"The World Cup is the biggest stage, and it is
something I have missed out on twice. It is a huge driving factor in me
-- I really want to be on that plane.
"But I have got a lot to do. I am down the pecking order at the moment, which is fair enough.
me, the World Cup is the biggest spectacle, the biggest thing in a
rugby career. I've never been to one...I don't want to watch this rugby
World Cup on television again."
Wales coach Warren Gatland said: "Gavin is well aware how much he is under the spotlight but he has got an opportunity.
spoke to him in the week and he's loved being back in the squad. He
missed it and was glad to be back. It's great from our point of view.
"Hopefully he'll be part of the World Cup squad but we'll get the answer from that on Saturday."
effectively sacrificed a potentially lucrative long-term deal at Toulon
for the sake of his remaining ambition, to play at a World Cup.
was controversially omitted from Steve Hansen's squad in 2003 and
suffered similar heartache four years later under Gareth Jenkins
following a several injuries.
Meanwhile Stephen Jones will emulate
Gareth Thomas to become only the second player to win 100 caps for
Wales when he starts at flyhalf. By contrast, Ospreys prop Ryan
Bevington and Tongan-born back-row Toby Faletau will make their
"Stephen has reached a fantastic milestone
and he deserves all the plaudits. He still has so much more to give and
it is a testament to him that he is still hungry," Gatland said.
The Barbarians overturned a 17-point deficit to beat England 38-32 at Twickenham last weekend.
multi-national side includes former All Blacks Doug Howlett and Carl
Hayman as well as Wales flanker Martyn Williams, who still hopes to play
at a fourth World Cup. Italy No 8 Sergio Parisse will captain the
15 Isa Nacewa (Leinster/FIJ), 14 Paul Sackey (Toulon/ENG), 13 Seru
Rabeni (La Rochelle/FIJ), 12 Mathieu Bastareaud (Stade Francais/FRA), 11
Doug Howlett (Munster/NZL), 10 Brock James (Clermont Auvergne), 9
Sebastien Tillous-Borde (Castres/FRA), 8 Sergio Parisse (Stade
Francais/ITA, captain), 7 Martyn Williams (Cardiff/WAL), 6 Joe van Niekerk (Toulon/RSA),
5 Paul Tito (Cardiff), 4 Iosefa Tekori (Castres/SAM), 3 Carl Hayman
(Toulon/NZL), 2 Sebastien Bruno (Toulon/FRA), 1 Iestyn Thomas
Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini (Treviso/ITA), 17 Davit
Kubriashvili (Toulon/GEO), 18 Erik Lund (Biarritz/NOR), 19 George Smith
(Toulon/AUS), 20 Lloyd Williams (Cardiff), 21 Willie Mason (Toulon), 22
Benoit Baby (Clermont Auvergne/FRA)
15 Morgan Stoddart, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Gavin
Henson, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau,
7 Sam Warburton (captain), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Ryan
Jones, 3 Paul James, 2 Huw Bennett, 1 Ryan Bevington
Substitutes: 16 Lloyd Burns, 17 Scott Andrews, 18 Alun-Wyn Jones, 19
Josh Turnbull, 20 Tavis Knoyle, 21 Rhys Priestland, 22 Scott Williams