Gatland names Henson in Six Nations squad
January 18, 2012
Gavin Henson is back in the Wales set-up after he missed the 2011 World Cup with a wrist injury © Getty Images
Gavin Henson was the high profile inclusion in Warren Gatland's 35-man training squad for the 2012 Six Nations.
The 29-year-old Cardiff Blues back has not featured for his country since dislocating a bone in his wrist in the pre-World Cup friendly victory over England, and has played just three games for his region since joining in October. Despite his lack of action, Henson is rated highly by the Wales coaching team and his ability to cover at fly-half, centre and full-back makes him a valuable commodity.
World Cup skipper Sam Warburton retains the captaincy despite the recall of Matthew Rees - who took the armband during the 2011 Six Nations.
There were six uncapped players in the group, the most surprising selection was 18-year-old Blues winger Harry Robinson. The others were in-form Ospreys centre Ashley Beck and scrum-half Rhys Webb and the Scarlets trio of prop Rhodri Jones, lock Lou Reed and full-back Liam Williams.
Gatland has also included six men plying their trade outside Wales - France-based trio James Hook, Mike Phillips and Lee Byrne were all selected, as were Exeter prop Craig Mitchell, Saracens prop Rhys Gill and Sale back-rower Andy Powell.
That sextet of players will not attend all of Wales' pre-tournament training camp in Spala, Poland, but will be present for three days - the maximum stipulated by International Rugby Board regulations as they are not obliged to be released by their clubs for the full seven-day camp.
Gatland has been robbed of his first-choice second-row pairing through injury with Alun Wyn Jones and Luke Charteris missing out while Scarlets back-rowers Josh Turnbull and Rob McCusker are also ruled out along with Newport Gwent Dragons hooker Lloyd Burns.
There was no place, meanwhile, for Scarlets fly-half Stephen Jones. The 34-year-old has won a record 104 caps for his country but his latest non-selection following his omission from the squad to face Australia in December suggests his Test career may be at an end.
Gatland said: "We have had to strike a balance with this squad. The majority are those players who excelled for Wales during the Rugby World Cup, but we are also taking the opportunity to look at one or two youngsters before probably cutting our numbers even further before the start of the Six Nations.
"We have kept a couple of older heads and we have injuries, with Alun Wyn Jones, Josh Turnbull, Rob McCusker and Luke Charteris all unavailable to us, but the emphasis on development and planning for the future is there for everyone to see.
"These are exciting times for Welsh rugby. We showed a huge amount of potential at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand and we'll be working as hard as humanly possible to ensure we reach our potential in this year's Six Nations Championship."
Forwards - Craig Mitchell (Exeter Chiefs), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Ryan Bevington (Ospreys), Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Paul James (Ospreys), Rhys Gill (Saracens), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Huw Bennett (Ospreys), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Bradley Davies (Cardiff Blues), Ian Evans (Ospreys), Lou Reed (Scarlets), Ryan Jones (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Toby Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons), Andy Powell (Sale Sharks)
Backs - Mike Phillips (Bayonne), Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues), Rhys Webb (Ospreys), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), James Hook (Perpignan), Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Gavin Henson (Cardiff Blues), Ashley Beck (Ospreys), George North (Scarlets), Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Harry Robinson (Cardiff Blues), Liam Williams (Scarlets), Lee Byrne (Clermont Auvergne)
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The latest Week in Pictures takes in a fiery East Midlands derby and all the action from the Aviva Premiership and Top 14
The rolling maul is becoming an increasingly potent attacking weapon. Conor O'Shea looks at the difficulties of stopping it
The news of James Horwill, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dan Carter's respective transfers will open the floodgates, writes Tom Hamilton