Henson in from the Cold? Don't Bet against It!

Article excerpt

Byline: By ANDY HOWELL Western Mail

Andy Howell wonders whether the prodigal son will be welcomed back to the Wales fold when his suspension ends this week MIKE RUDDOCK faces the biggest decision of his reign as Wales coach in the next week - what to do with Gavin Henson.

It's certainly a no-win situation for Ruddock, perhaps even a no-go area. Events of last week in the continuing fall-out over Henson's autobiography showed how high feelings are still running in the Wales squad over that book.

The big question now, the only question, is: Can Ruddock include Henson in his squad for the Ireland match in 12 days' time?

Wales need him, if not in the team, certainly on the bench, with his versatility allowing him to cover centre, outside-half and full-back.

Let's not beat around the bush. What would happen if No 10 Stephen Jones was forced off through injury early on at Lansdowne Road? Panic!

Having British Lion Henson on the bench, despite his limited game-time this season through injury and suspension, would offer valuable insurance against such a potentially damaging scenario.

England forward Lewis Moody has already proved in this championship that a player can bounce back from a lengthy lay-off, in his case 19 days longer than Henson after copping 10 weeks - his second ban of the campaign.

If important Grand Slam cog Henson isn't recalled, it would suggest to many he hasn't yet been totally forgiven for his perceived literary misdemeanours.

It's a delicate one for Ruddock and company as Henson is not your typical rugby player. He doesn't fit the norm and won't bow to the peer pressure which is paramount in rugby teams throughout the world.

He does his own thing, puts on fake tan, waxes his legs, has a celebrity girlfriend in the shape of singer Charlotte Church and frequents glitzy London nightclubs. It is a world away from the lifestyles enjoyed by the rest of the Wales playing squad.

Not only that - and this is what worries his team-mates the most - Henson has opinions and is prepared to express them. Just like he did in his book - and being Gav, of course, guarantees column inches.

Henson has already had to face the wrath of angry team-mates - the players effectively held a kangaroo court last November when they summoned him before them to explain his actions - and now the crunch is nearing whether he can be accommodated in the Welsh squad again.

As far as Wales assistant coach Scott Johnson is concerned it is only performance that matters.

'He's got to play well. It's up to Gavin to see how he performs,' said the straight-talking Australian. …