Thursday, 13 January 2011

How do you solve a problem like Gavin Henson?

A friend of mine commented to me last week that whilst I've been writing a good amount around my love of various sports, I haven't yet touched upon rugby. He was quite right and that is certainly an oversight on my part.

So on reading today's Western Mail, I found myself compelled to give my thoughts on the enigma that is Gavin Henson.

'That Kick'

He shot to prominence of course with that incredible penalty winning kick that gave Wales our first victory over the English in 6 years and propelled us towards our first Grand Slam in a generation back in 2005. I remember it well - my University friends and I were sitting in the back of Yr Hen Llew Ddu in Aberystwyth with my friend Chris saying as the penalty was awarded that we should kick for a line-out as it was too far from the posts for Stephen Jones to kick it. I and a number of the boys reminded him in no uncertain terms that young Henson had the capacity to kick the ball some distance and that we should take the chance of scoring the points. The rest of course is history.

He's gone on to be a member of 2 Grand Slam winning Welsh teams after the heroics of 2005 were wonderfully repeated in true Welsh style in 2008. He hasn't however appeared in a World Cup and despite his undoubted talent, he's had a propensity to be his own worst enemy and has driven many of his own countryfolk to rile against him.

Henson the Celebrity
His marriage to Charlotte Church, his tan and good looks were always going to put him on the front pages as much as they were the back, but the feeling is that he has squandered a prodigous sporting talent along the way.

His bust-up with the Ospreys has been incredulous. After a 21 month period out of the game, he turned his back on the Welsh region that had stood by him in what can only be described as a fit of pique as he decided to put space between himself and his estranged wife.

During his absence from the field he made the ill-judged decision to accept a daft offer from the WRU to be their 'poster-boy' in helping to launch the new Welsh rugby kit last September. This not unreasonably did not go down well with his Welsh team-mates who saw a struggling colleague taking the limelight from those who were grafting on the pitch for their country on  a more regular and consistent basis. This will only have added to the changing room hostility that more senior members will recall after revelations he made in his 2005 book chronicling his first Grand Slam year.

Strictly Losing the Plot
His high profile appearances on BBC1's Strictly Come Dancing at the end of last year put him back in the media spotlight at the same time that he brought to a fraught end his relationship with the Ospreys as he made a move across the border and to the capital to join Saracens.

He did well to reach the semi-finals of the dancing competition at a time when Welsh rugby fans and many in the rugby world questioned his priorities.

Well, he's now made matters worse this week with another media gaffe by stating in an interview with BBC sports editor Mihir Bose on the one hand his concern that he won't make the Welsh squad for the Six Nations Championship this spring and then on the other exclaiming how his Strictly exploits gave him a greater feeling than winning a Grand Slam with his country.

He said: "To get a standing ovation and to get to the semi-finals was a great feeling. It tops any rugby moment, even winning the Six Nations".

Yet, having made only one start for Saracens since his move, he admits that he's concerned that he's not getting enough pitch time to give himself a chance of making the Six Nations squad. He knows that if he is to make an appearance in his first World Cup this autumn then a place in the Six Nations really is imperative.

He stated: "I need to be starting for Saracens to be in the Wales squad".

Well where exactly do your priorities lie Gavin? If winning the Grand Slam for Wales strikes him as being a lesser achievement than competing in a vanity competition on TV, then shouldn't Wales boss Warren Gatland concentrate on choosing the players who truly understand and respect the importance that comes with pulling on that red jersey?

Former Welsh players Bobby Windsor, Mervyn Davies and Gareth Edwards have all hit back with their surprise and anger at these comments and who can blame them? AsWindsor said: "You have got to have boys in there giving 100%. There is no 'i' in team and the trouble with him him is that he is the 'i' ".

Stop Talking and Start Playing
Henson has got to stop playing himself off as the victim. He talks himself into trouble and he angers and frustrates a rugby mad nation with every word. His comments this week will only have added to the fire.

Henson divides the country like few others in his chosen field. Yes, he's a skilled and talented player who, on top form should play a part in the coming tournament and in the World Cup later this autumn. Yet, his very presence in the changing room could stir up more discontent and trouble than it's worth.

Should Gatland choose him for the squad which opens it's campaign against England next month? On current form, no.

But the question must be asked, should he be considered to wear the jersey at all? Henson himself talks a good case for the negative.

How do you solve a problem like Gavin Henson?

1 comment:

  1. Very Intersting :)
    Couldn't agree more - especially as Wales haven't a hope in the six nations anyway ;)