UPDATE: Gavin Henson sacked by Cardiff Blues

UPDATE: Following this morning’s meeting by the Blues management, Gavin Henson has been dismissed from the club with immediate effect. Full statement here.

If you made the assumption after hearing the news of Gavin Henson’s latest escapade on Saturday night and believed it to be an April Fools, you are forgiven. After all, surely it was beyond all levels of rationale and possibility that Gavin Henson would have managed to take what felt like his final opportunity in the sport and toss it away.

Yet waking up on Sunday morning, disbelief turned to both disdain and incredulity. To recap, after Cardiff were embarrassingly hammered by Glasgow, a result that had made their prospects of taking part in the end of season playoffs highly unlikely, Henson consequently headed out into the Scottish city and drank until boarding the 7am flight the following morning back to the Welsh capital.

On board, he continued to drink into a state, before allegedly throwing ice cubes around the cabin and when asked by the airline staff to stop, became violent and aggressive. As news started to filter out about the latest escapade, Cardiff’s action was swift in suspending him immediately, with the management team of Gareth Baber & Justin Burrell sitting down this morning to work out what to do with him.

Henson said the following in a statement: “I stupidly carried on drinking during the flight, for which I am truly embarrassed. I can see that drinking and behaving inappropriately on that flight as a professional sportsman at 7am has caused offence to members of the public, the Flybe airline staff and passengers. I remain fully focused and committed to Cardiff Blues and I hope they can accept my apology.”

What is important to remember is that this is Henson’s second alcohol-related disciplinary faux-pas within a year. After he made what appeared to be an ambitious move to Toulon following a bizarre six weeks at Saracens, Henson’s stint with the French juggernaut fell apart after only his second appearance for the club. Taunting Jonny Wilkinson and captain Joe Van Niekerk, plus brawling with scrum-half Matt Henjak on a night out meant that the mercenary was forced to pack his bags once more.

Although apologetic and eager to be kept on at the club, insulting the club’s figurehead in Van Niekerk and their beloved son in Wilkinson was both foolish and offensive. Henson only days earlier had praised the club and atmosphere he found himself in, citing it as a springboard for his comeback. The dialogue was similar on his return to Wales this year, where to much surprise after he appeared on reality TV show The Bachelor he was picked up by Cardiff and gradually regained his fitness.

Now less than halfway into an eight month deal, the wheels are off again. At 30, joining Cardiff was the final chance for Henson to somehow come close to maximising what appeared to be extraordinary potential when he tore up the 2005 Six Nations in his debut championship. For esteemed Welsh internationals such as Ryan Jones to come out in his defence speaks volumes of the admiration held amongst Henson’s peers of his talent.

It has now been just under 18 months since Henson officially left the Ospreys, though he had spent a similar period of time out of the game with injuries preceding that. Since his departure, reality TV has played its part in the circus (Henson also participated in Strictly Come Dancing), but the primary concern has been alcohol.

An unashamedly eager desire for the limelight, at times fuelled by drink, has been the masquerade covering up Henson’s damaging insecurities. No one is a saint when it comes to alcohol, but to act in that manner whilst on professional duty with not just one of your clubs, but two, both at times when you are playing for your career is either unreservedly and idiotically stupid, or tragic and a desperate sign for help (depending on your level of cynicism). As Sunday passed and reflection set in, the overwhelming urge was for the latter and the conclusion that Henson sorely needs help.

If Cardiff conclude that their association with him must come to an end, it will be his third acrimonious split with a leading European side in 18 months. If he does stay, he will have to receive some form of psychological counselling regarding his reaction to alcohol. When fully fit both in mind and body, his natural talent is impossible to ignore, with some of the finest hands and vision that Wales have arguably every produced, not to mention a monster boot.

Whether he deserves another chance is up for debate, but what no one can disagree with is that through a series of tumultuous events, what could have been an outstanding career has been wasted, both by injury and ego. That is a bitter taste that when Henson looks back, no drink will cure.

by Ben Coles

The Gavin Henson Story:

September 2003 – 21 year old Henson makes his regional debut for the Ospreys

February 2005 – After impressive in the Autumn internationals, Henson has a superb Six Nations debut against England, landing big kicks and putting in that tackle on Mathew Tait. Wales go on to win the Grand Slam, the centre later releasing his first book in which he heavily criticises the Lions tour to New Zealand

February 2008 – Henson missed the 2007 Rugby World Cup, but returns for the Six Nations, again winning the Grand Slam

October 2010 – After 18 months off including a stint on Strictly Come Dancing, Henson signs for Saracens

February 2011 – Five games in, Henson is released from his contract and joins Toulon as a medical joker

April 2011: – Henson has an altercation with team-mates in a nightclub and is suspended. He is released a month later at the end of the season

October 2011: – After playing for Wales in the summer, as well as staring in The Bachelor, Henson joins Cardiff Blues on an 8 month deal

April 1st 2012: – Henson is suspended by Cardiff after an altercation on a flight back form Glasgow after drinking heavily

April 2nd 2012: – Cardiff Blues sack Henson with immediate effect

23 thoughts on “UPDATE: Gavin Henson sacked by Cardiff Blues

  1. Good article Ben.

    It saddens me to say it, but I think the Gavin Henson ship has sailed and he will end up playing for a Welsh Premiership team. I can’t see any of the Aviva Premiership teams taking him on. I can’t see any offers coming in from abroad either.

    Although not all his fault, injury prone and his separation from Charlotte Church hitting him hard, he’s consistently failed to mature and take these upsets on the chin and move on.

    Shame for a once prospective talent.

  2. Sadly I think his future lies in reality TV, and not rugby. You are right Darryl, I can’t see any Premiership team taking him on. He did nothing at Sarries whilst there, apart from getting injured again. And we all know what happened at Toulon. He seems to constantly engage his mouth before his brain, even when he’s not drunk.

  3. Henson is by his own admission crippingly shy . How this fits in with chasing celebrity headlines is a bit of a mystery but humans are of course contradictory in nature ..

    Unfortunately the use of alcohol seems to lead to another side of his nature coming out and at the age of 30 he hasn’t learnt to control this .

    Sadly he is probably now going to be seen as too disruptive to be involved in any professional team . It is sad because at one time he had talent to burn however that is what he has done burnt it .

  4. Henson is a moron and Cardiff will be well rid of him. Can not see who would want him.
    Perhaps him and that other idiot who cant hold his drink Danny Care can open a pub together

        1. That’s funny. I don’t think he will be needing to call it The Red Lion. Time to exit stage left for Mr Henson. Can’t see why Blues would keep him and can’t understand why anyone else would give him another chance. Sad example of the brightest stars burning for the shortest time.

  5. What a shame that such talent is wasted on such a moron, his love for himself is nearly matched for his love for a TV career but when you are so null and void of any personality as this prat is he won’t last long.

    I can’t see how he is ‘Cripplingly Shy’ when he is so vain, the Welsh shouldn’t be bothered about this joke as they have a far better and stronger team without him.

  6. Can’t believe he’s 30. Totally wasted talent. A lesson to some current international wannabe’s I think. Once again a minus against the insular world of rugby. Most people in the real world grow up much faster!

    1. unless he wants to line up for Rosslyn park 4s this weekend, its almost de regreur to turn up having not been to sleep the night before!

  7. Undoubtedly a waste of a talent who could’ve gone to to achieve much more. However the guy is a double grand slam winner and former lion. Something i’m sure plenty of other players would love to achieve by the end of their careers, but may never do so.

    He should take stock and be thankful for what he did achieve in the game. Somehow though i doubt even that is enough to satisfy him, and no doubt it’s not the last we’ll hear of him..for all the wrong reasons.

  8. The Blues must be rubbing their hands at this development. They want to offload him – he’s too expensive, not playing well and not getting on with some of their more important stars, He’s just handed them an easy way to show him the door.

    Personally I’ve always been happy to support Gav but the last straw for me was last summer – lots of contrite interviews about understanding this was now his last chance, it’s all about the rugby now, all about the chance to place in the World Cup … then he announces he is doing The Bachelor. That was the moment a lot of us Gav supporters finally gave up and wished he would go away, stop stinking up Welsh Rugby with his antics. 3 weeks after our 3rd Grand Slam in only 8 years and already he’s got more headlines across the bridge than any of our rugby ever did.

    1. Yep, as expected, Blues have dismissed him with immediate effect. This is ugly – there have been plenty of players who have behaved badly who they have not dismissed, but this time it serves their purpose and they can take the moral high ground. Leaves a very bad taste. He’s a naughty boy but he’s caught up in the wider problems at the Blues this time.

  9. CEO of The Blues says “We have a duty to our supporters and sponsors to protect the good name of Cardiff Blues and those associated with our brand.”. This sort of crap really makes me angry. They do nothing to improve the rugby of the Blues – amateur coaches, mass player exodus, cavernously empty stadium, witless selection and recruitment policy, complete ignorance of what it is to be a region rather than a club, awful ineffectual marketing strategy (adverts on S4C at 2 in the afternoon seems to be their magic idea) … all of that together makes the Blues “good name” go down the toilet, now what Gav did. They must be so happy Gav did this as nobody is talking about how a Scottish team stuffed with wooden spoon winners ritually disembowelled and humiliated the Blues on Friday night – a team with Lau La La, Roberts, 1/2penny, Cuthbert… Woeful.

  10. The guy is an ass. Most would kill to have the talent he has but we see him squander it time and time again. I was surprised the blues picked him up after what was a complete farce concerning his times at Sarries and Toulon. To mess Sarries about then wind up three central figures in your new team to the point one tries to lay you out? Looks like a major attitude problem. Seems to be that he considers himself above most and expects his star and minor celebrity status to carry him and bring him respect wherever he goes. Its the end for him, I doubt any team would want an attitude or presence like that demoralising the ranks from the inside. Could have gone very different if he had kept his head down and worked hard, he could well have been up there with the best 12’s in the world like Nonu, Guscott etc.
    Speaking of that tackle, what happened to the talented Matthew Tait?

    1. guscott never tackled anything , and also lived off a winning try he scored for the lions , …had speed and skill,… no guts ironicaly

  11. I have a suggestion for a career change for him he can go to work at Henson’s Creature Workshop along with all the other Muppets!

  12. I should preface this by saying I firmly believe that Henson is THE most naturally talented British rugby player that I’ve ever seen play in 20 years of going to games (Swansea played him at every position in the back line except scrum half) and he must be some rugby player as the media are all over it & not just in the Welsh “goldfish bowl”, you’d think that “player who’s only played 8 times released by club” wasn’t a great headline. He is however also undoubtedly one of the biggest brat’s (if you can still be a brat at 30) ever to play rugby but I guess that’s what happens when everyone tells you how great you are for 30 years and while he obviously brought this on himself the Cardiff Blues have been looking to get rid of him pretty much ever since he recovered from his wrist injury. They’ve only played him 8 times when he was clearly the most talented player in the squad. If they didn’t sack him to save money I’m a monkey’s uncle.

    Look at the player’s who the Blues have effectively released this season, Martyn Williams, Gethin Jenkins, Dan Parks, Casey Laulala and Richie Rees are all on their way out of the region and judging by the “deal” they’ve offered Alex Cuthbert or tried NOT to offer him, since they only started negotiating after the 6 Nations there’s a reasonable chance he will leave too. It was also announced today that Ben Blair is contract negotiations with Agen, so all in all it looks to me that they where looking for any excuse to release another player who they can’t afford to pay (even though he was on a pay as you play contract).

    He needs to get his head down and get some game time, not at 15, but in the back line where he can actually influence the game and not paper over the appalling kicking game that the rest of the team have. One of the reasons that he hasn’t played enough since he ended his self imposed exile has been a set of fairly extraordinary circumstances Sarries stitched him up (& I’m a Sarries supporter), it was a publicity stunt by Ed Griffiths to get some1 who was already high profile to a club with an ego maniacal chairman who craves the spotlight (World record crowd anyone ?). At RCT noone can argue that again he manufactured a ros for his own back with the booze but he WAS actually right in his comments, Van Niekirk was pretty terrible at the end of last season & Fernandez Lobbe was a far better 8 & leader (granted probably not best to raise this point in a night club in the wee small hours, but nobody ever said Gav’s a rocket scientist, did they ?)

    ALL points to having a pretty ordinary career advice and an agent who just wants to cash, not to assist a rugby player in his career. Hopefully he’ll find someone who will sign him for next season, but I’m starting to believe that all the negative press will speak louder than his exceptional talent.

  13. It would be a crying shame if he didn’t get employed again. There are others in the game who are just as stupid and big headed when drunk. Several current and recent internationals included. None of them have his talent.
    He has upset a lot of people by speaking the truth about some “saints” of the game and become an easy media target.
    The Blues are obviously taking this line for financial reasons more than discipline.
    What other club would offer Gethin Jenkins a contract that includes an clause not to pay him while on International duty? They may well regret it now Roberts is out.
    Henson has always disliked playing full back, he showed that in the Final 6 Nations game against Ireland a couple of years ago. I was disgusted by his body language on that day. Did he refuse to take that final kick and cost Wales the game?
    He is still a classy centre with the ability to make breaks AND a brilliant defender who can kick goals from miles out.
    He looked good in his last game for Wales and refused to leave the field, continuing to keep his place in the defensive line with a broken wrist, until a replacement was ready. Would probably have made the Wales squad for the World Cup on his display.
    The Welsh management team know how to handle him and he knew that he wouldn’t get any leeway for stupidity, they proved that with Powell.
    There may well be some Premiership clubs with managers who have the same attitude. I hope so, but it would definitely be his LAST chance.

  14. I really hope he does find a top flight club, even if it’s the club who get promoted from the Championship. If he is serious about missing playing and wanting to make himself a serious fixture in the Welsh squad then money shouldn’t be an issue, if he’s serious he should play for buttons and a meal ticket after the game. I suspect his “advisors” don’t share that view though.

    1. I am sorry, but talented though he is, Henson brings a little bit of what is bad about football into rugby, and we don’t need that. Image matters, of course, but from the moment you arrive at the ground to the moment you leave, then how you look doesn’t matter in the slightest.

      Imagine Beaumont, McBride, Jeffrey and Gravell being worried about how their hair looked or whether their fake tan was evenly distributed before they went on the pitch….


      I would only re-find respect for Henson if he were to forego the tan, shave his head and not give two hoots about how he looked on camera when interviewed immediately after the game.

      Never going to happen though

  15. whatever anyones opinion about henson, he is a brilliant rugby player and now sadly i can only dream about the center partenerships wales could have had with him….SAD

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