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Gavin Henson – Rugby’s Biggest Wasted Talent?

England v Wales - RBS 6 Nations

Gavin Henson’s career is a story of what could have been

When Gavin Henson burst onto the scene with the Ospreys in 2003 few doubted his potential. On his debut against Ulster, Henson scored two tries in a fifteen point haul. However Henson’s personality would come to divide opinion.

Although the utility back earned his first caps for Wales that season, it was not until November 2004 that he began to make his name on the international stage. Strong performances against Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa in November that year, led to him being viewed as one of Wales’ leading players.

Henson then established his reputation after he demolished Matthew Tait in a man of the match performance against England in 2005. Henson also scored the winning penalty in that fixture, seemingly paving the way for a long and successful career.

Henson’s performances led to him being selected on the ill-fated 2005 Lions tour of New Zealand. Although Clive Woodward did not pick him for the first test against the All Blacks, he played the second at inside centre, before injury denied Henson the opportunity of playing in the third. In many ways, Gavin Henson’s playing career peaked at this point, and he became more famous for his off field antics.

In October of that year, Henson published an autobiography titled My Grand Slam Year. In it he criticised some of his Lions and Wales team mates, accusing Brian O’Driscoll of eye gouging and wrote that Wales captain, Colin Charvis, was on a ‘power trip’ after the flanker tried to advise Henson on how to conduct himself in public.

Henson now began to make the headlines for the wrong reasons. In December 2005 he was given a ten week ban for elbowing Leicester Tigers prop Alex Moreno in a Heineken Cup game. After being robbed of the opportunity of playing at 2007 World Cup, Henson was charged with disorderly conduct following an incident on a train that December.

Nevertheless Henson began 2008 in spectacular form, starting each game in the Six Nations as Wales won the Grand Slam. Although it seemed Henson was getting his career back on track, in April 2009 he was cautioned by police after an alleged assault outside a nightclub.

Gavin Henson Fends Off Luke Andrews, During The Br

Henson then decided to take a sabbatical, to allow him recover from various injuries. However he remained in the spotlight as the Welsh Rugby Union used the player to advertise their new kit. This angered many of his team mates, as it was rumoured that Henson had effectively retired. Appearances on reality tv programmes 71 Degrees North and Strictly Come Dancing did little to quell such stories during this period.

Nonetheless Henson returned to rugby after signing for Saracens in October 2010. However after making only four appearances for the English side, Henson was released in February 2011, and immediately joined Toulon. Trouble followed the player to France though. After only his second appearance for the French club, Henson was involved in an altercation with two of his team mates on a night out.

Despite being released by Toulon, Henson was selected on Warren Gatland’s preliminary 45 man squad for the 2011 World Cup. However he was ruled out of the tournament after dislocating his wrist in a warm up game against England. Henson then signed for the Cardiff Blues but was was sacked in April 2012, after behaving inappropriately on a flight returning the team from playing the Glasgow Warriors.

Despite his troubled past, London Welsh signed Henson in July. The following season Henson joined Bath, but after only one month with the English side, he was once again in the headlines after becoming involved in an altercation with a team mate in a night club. Nevertheless he remained at Bath until February 2015, when he was released from his contact and subsequently joined Bristol.

Now 34, Henson is coming to the end of his career, but while he could have potentially played out his final seasons with an illustrious club offering his experience to talented youngsters, according to Wales Online, it looks as though he will move to the perennially struggling Newport Gwent Dragons.

Gavin Henson was one of the most gifted Welsh players of his generation. When he was at his peak Wales won two Grand Slams and did not lose a game in which he started until March 2009 against Ireland. However stories of his off field antics have dominated his career.

Sadly the prophetic words of the then Chief Executive of the Welsh Rugby Union, David Moffett, have rung true. In October 2005 Moffett wrote, ‘Gavin Henson is a young man with a huge amount of potential and none of us wants him to be remembered as someone who kicked a goal against England and went out with Charlotte Church’.


On this week’s edition of the Oval Office Podcast, we speak to Jamie Roberts and look ahead at the festive fixture list.

Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.