Friday, 10 September 2010

Why Henson would be better off foxtrotting his way over to Adams Park

Welsh Dragon: Henson dancing to his own tune at the Millennium Stadium

This week saw the BBC reveal their line up for this year’s Strictly Come Dancing.

Among the names set to light up our Saturday evenings is Gavin Henson, Welsh rugby’s former darling who helped his nation to two Grand Slams in 2005 and 2008.

For non-rugby enthusiasts, Henson’s involvement in the dance competition will add a rare panache to a show which usually showcases former sports stars, rather than current ones.

But Henson is the poster boy of Welsh rugby – what David Beckham is to English football if you will – and, however much Becks is perceived to be a prima donna, you will not see him tiptoeing around a ballroom dancefloor anytime soon.

And nor should Henson.

Henson has come to prominence playing rugby, and playing it rather well. There are few who can combine the flair, elegance and brutality on the field as the boy from Bridgend.

Despite his club side Ospreys winning the Magners League in his absence last term, Henson's talents have been missed by both club and country since his self-imposed exile from the game some 18 months ago.

In many ways, there are similarities between Henson and Beckham. Both enjoy the spotlight, the fast cars, the good looks, and the celebrity partner (although Henson has recently split from his fiancée Charlotte Church).

There is, however, one major difference between the two.

Beckham has excelled in his sport and, despite earning millions in non-sporting endorsements, has never forgotten what put him on the map: playing football.

Golden Balls still harbours a burning desire to represent his country in the autumn of his stellar career, and revealed this week he is chomping at the bit to be involved in the LA Galaxy’s fixture with Columbus Crew this Sunday after a six-month absence to an Achilles injury.

Henson, by stark contrast, appears happy to dip in and out of the sport which gave him his name, and this disrespect for the most unforgiving of sports, at least physically, will surely come back to haunt him.

Those close to the mercurial Welshman have no doubts he still harbours hopes of donning the famous red jersey again, and representing his nation in a World Cup.

After tasting Grand Slam success twice, he has yet to appear in a World Cup after being omitted from Gareth Jenkins’ squad that performed so dismally in France in 2007.

This glaring omission from his playing CV still haunts Henson, and he still hopes to address this as New Zealand 2011 approaches.

Just how he expects to do so when he is messing around on a television show is anybody’s guess, especially when he is approaching the peek of his career.

Henson may well go on to reproduce his top form for both club and country, and point to the fact he had this break from the game. But how many have followed a similar decision?

Strictly is only on for four months, while rugby is Henson’s bread and butter.

To even be considered for Wales in 2011, he must be playing regularly for a club, which brings us nicely onto this week’s rumours that Wasps are set to sign him in January.

The move would make perfect sense. Shaun Edwards is the current head coach of the London outfit, while also juggling this role with his part-time position as the Welsh defensive coach.

Edwards knows Henson inside out, and also has a direct link to the national team and Warren Gatland should Henson turn out eye-catching displays at Adams Park.

For Henson to figure for his country in a World Cup though, he must look to eradicate this playboy image – one that has seen him appear on The Jonathan Ross Show, banned from numerous Cardiff night spots, engaged to a celebrity, and appear on the said talent show.

There is no doubting Henson has talent, I just hope he decides it is best utilised on a rugby field, rather than in a ballroom.

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