Henson’s latest shot at redemption needs to stick

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

7 thoughts on “Henson’s latest shot at redemption needs to stick

  1. I have to agree that he’s going to struggle to get into Bath’s first team regularly. And then if he does he will probably get injured again! One can only hope that he concentrates on his rugby, and can get a few good appearances in. Joseph is another who has a tendency to get injured, so Henson may figure a little at 13, but with Banahan as well (who can cover wing as well as both centre options), there aren’t going to be too many opportunities. I guess now Heathcote is pushing for the Scottish no.10 shirt, Henson could get some time at 10 when he’s on international duty, even if it may be from the bench as cover for Ford?!
    But I can see it all going horribly wrong, and he probably won’t be there past Christmas!

  2. I can’t see Henson playing anything other than LV cup or injury stricken games. Bath have bought him as cover – perhaps a few bench spots with a few mins here or there when Bath are 30 points up.

    Such a shame. As a Welshman it’s so painful to see how he just pissed it all away. Henson + Roberts would, if Henson was on top of his game, be a dream centre pairing and I’d say the best defensive centre pairing we’d had have ever seen. What a waste. I fear for him 5 years from now when he can’t even play rugby to support himself.

  3. I really did despair when we signed him. We signed Moody ( who I think is fantastic) at the end of his career with a massive list of injuries. We had a tendency to just sign “names” who did not have a big impact. I am just hoping to be proved wrong because if HNewon rediscovers his old form it will be a joy to behold.

  4. I thought Bath were nuts for signing him in the first place. They’ve had their fair share of controversies in recent times so I would’ve expected them to stay well away from characters like Henson. With two young fly halves like Ford and Heathcote, Bath should have been looking for a far more more level headed guy to act as mentor and role model.

    If Henson steps out of line, I’ll be hoping Gold has given Fearns license to do the same again.

  5. Got to say I was surprised when they signed him. As you point out in your article, there’s not really any space for him so I can only imagine he’s there as an experienced head to guide youngsters coming through. That’s worrying in itself.

    Under Sir Ian, Bath opted to not sign Danny Cipriani as it was perceived he was a big shot who was bigger than the team and the players wouldn’t welcome him. Well, Gavin Henson arrived and got his welcome from Carl Fearns.

    I think the worst thing about his response to the incident was that he mostly seemed embarrassed that he went down so easily and insisting it’s because he had a headache (not because he was thoroughly drunk or half the size of Fearns). He had an opportunity to apologise for the situation he put himself into and point out to youngsters that he’s not to be emulated but instead suggested he’d have a fair fight when he’s not got a headache.

    A few years ago, I really thought he’d turned himself around, playing well again not constantly in the papers, focusing on his game instead of what paper he’s in and I was glad to see it. Then there was a drunken incident on a train and the car crash just kept going.

  6. Why talk about charity boxing matches and headaches? “I was acting like a **** and I got what I deserved, I’ve apologised to Carl for instigating something that resulted in him getting fined” would have been more appropriate.

    I’m sure the self destruct button will be pressed again at some point this season and I’m not sure he’ll last the season with Bath.

  7. He doesn’t need to apologise in an interview like this, just train hard behind the scenes whilst he still can and prove to bath rugby that he deserves his contract

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