Henson handed chance to impress
January 19, 2012
Gavin Henson has seen little action for Cardiff Blues this season © Getty Images
Ashley Beck Warren Gatland Gavin Henson Rhodri Jones Lou Reed Harry Robinson Sam Warburton Rhys Webb Liam Williams
Wales coach Warren Gatland has laid down the gauntlet to Gavin Henson after naming him in his 35-man training squad for the forthcoming Six Nations.
The 29-year-old will travel to Poland next week for Wales' pre-tournament training camp despite having played just three games since joining the Cardiff Blues in October. Those appearances, two of which have come at fullback with the other in his favoured inside centre position, followed a wrist injury that ended his Rugby World Cup hopes and sidelined him for four months.
"There was a long debate about whether Gavin made the squad or not and it was more or less about us wanting to have a look at him on past performances and reputation and seeing where he is at," said Gatland, who is expected to trim the squad down ahead of the Six Nations opener against Ireland in Dublin on February 5.
"Like a number of players this is an opportunity for Gav to impress. Last time we were together before the World Cup he did well, he mixed it between filming 'The Bachelor' and playing a bit of rugby, but his attitude was great, he trained hard.
"I can only talk about Gavin in terms how he is in our environment and he has always been great and there have been no issues, so it's a matter of we will sit down with him next week and see where his head is at."
Gatland also included six uncapped players in his squad, with 18-year-old Cardiff Blues wing Harry Robinson being joined by in-form Ospreys centre Ashley Beck, scrum-half Rhys Webb and the Scarlets trio of lock Lou Reed, prop Rhodri Jones and fullback Liam Williams. There were places for six players who ply their club trade outside Wales in the form of Lee Byrne, James Hook, Mike Phillips, Craig Mitchell, Andy Powell and Rhys Gill.
While Gatland is currently focused on the Six Nations, he suggested he would welcome an approach to be head coach of the British & Irish Lions tour to Australia in 2013, having been involved in the 2009 tour of South Africa.
The Lions want their choice as head coach to be available to them on a full-time basis from a year prior to the tour, meaning Gatland would need to negotiate a release from his Wales contract, which runs until after the 2015 World Cup and included a break clause in the summer of 2013, in order to take the role.
But Press Association Sport understands the WRU would be open to negotiation over any approach, which would potentially allow them to develop a coach with a view to replacing Gatland when his contract expires.
He said: "I think that Wales have always been incredibly supportive of the Lions and if there was that chance that the Lions wanted me to be involved then I don't think there would be a negative hindrance by the Welsh Rugby Union for me to do that."
Forwards - C Mitchell (Exeter Chiefs), Adam Jones (Ospreys), R Bevington (Ospreys), G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), P James (Ospreys), R Gill (Saracens), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), M Rees (Scarlets), H Bennett (Ospreys), K Owens (Scarlets), B Davies (Cardiff Blues), I Evans (Ospreys), L Reed (Scarlets), Ryan Jones (Ospreys), D Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt), J Tipuric (Ospreys), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons), A Powell (Sale Sharks)
Backs - M Phillips (Bayonne), L Williams (Cardiff Blues), R Webb (Ospreys), R Priestland (Scarlets), J Hook (Perpignan), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), J Davies (Scarlets), S Williams (Scarlets), G Henson (Cardiff Blues), A Beck (Ospreys), G North (Scarlets), L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), A Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), H Robinson (Cardiff Blues), L Williams (Scarlets), L Byrne (Clermont Auvergne)
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