Gavin Henson was interviewed this week, and unsurprisingly the majority of the questions revolved around the incident in a pub in Bath in which he was knocked to the floor by a punch from new teammate Carl Fearns.
Here is a sportsman with more talent in his little finger than most of us possess in our entire bodies, and yet his legacy will undoubtedly be bar-brawls and trashy trans-Atlantic reality television programmes.
The latest instalment in the Henson soap-opera follows a pattern that is depressingly familiar. At various stages in his ridiculously protracted ‘comeback’ he has been involved in fistfights with teammates in Toulon and thrown ice cubes at passengers on a commercial flight, an act that ultimately sealed his exit from the Cardiff Blues – that was redemption shot number three, for anyone counting.
Before his well-publicised sabbatical and flirtation with the C-List celebratory world, he had hardly been a paragon of sportsmen’s values, either. In 2005 he was forced to apologise to his Wales teammates after comments about them in his autobiography, and in 2007 he was charged with disorderly conduct on a train after an Ospreys game.
So, when he said this week that ‘bad things seem to happen when I go out, so maybe I shouldn’t go out’ the rest of the world replied ‘um, you think so Gav?’ It was such a throwaway comment, though, that it is fairly obvious he has no plans to change. He did not exactly seem to be full of remorse.
To be fair to him, before the latest barroom bust-up with Fearns things had been looking up. His time last season at London Welsh may have been blighted by injury, but in his seven appearances there were glimpses of the magician that burst onto the international scene way back in 2003. If Bath have signed that player, and not the show-pony with a need to fight his teammates, then he could well be a shrewd acquisition.
There is the question, though, of where exactly he will fit into this Bath team. He featured mostly at fly-half for London Welsh, but Tom Heathcote came on leaps and bounds last season and George Ford, tipped to be the brightest young talent in England a couple of seasons ago, also joined in the off-season.
Inside centre is another option, but Kyle Eastmond has been making that position his own for both club and country recently, and if they want a more direct approach then the monstrous Matt Banahan has featured there with great effect. Henson could, at a stretch, fill in at 13 but Jonathan Joseph has surely been signed with a view to being the long-term solution there for Bath.
The final option would be full-back, but Nick Abendanon is a stalwart of this Bath side and is one of the finest counter-attacking fullbacks in the land. He will not be dropped, and young Ollie Devoto also looked full of promise there last season and in the JWC with England. So it certainly seems Henson is there as cover more than anything else, but how will that sit with a man who so loves to be the centre of attention?
This is surely Henson’s final chance. He has exhausted pretty much all of his options. The experiment at big-spending Toulon ended in disaster, so no French team will touch him now. Saracens took a punt on him first but have since built a much more established squad, and he couldn’t even make it work in his native Wales with Cardiff.
There is always Super Rugby, but most Southern Hemisphere franchises have way too much quality already to gamble on an aging Welshman. The likes of the Rebels, who once did just that on Cipriani, are even beginning to distance themselves from the trouble-making crowd, with no Kurtley Beale or James O’Connor on their books next season.
At 31 and with a chequered past (to put it mildly), this really is last chance saloon for Henson. For the good of the Premiership let’s hope he gets his head down and focuses on his rugby, because at his best he is a joy to watch. If not, this is surely the end of the line for him.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images