Is Gavin Henson heading for rugby wilderness?

Gary Taylor28 April 2011 - 09:20

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Gavin Henson is a very gifted and talented rugby player but his career could be in tatters after his latest act of indiscipline.

Henson joined French side Toulon in February and has made just two appearances but he has already fallen foul of his new club’s bosses after reportedly fighting with a teammate.

The Welshman, according to reports in France, criticised England legend Jonny Wilkinson before clashing with scrum half Matt Henjak in a nightclub which led to a one-week ban for breaching club discipline.

He described his move to Toulon as “awesome” and said he was desperate to secure a longer-term deal with the Top 14 side.

But Henson’s latest wrongdoing looks set to scupper that deal and any chance of forcing his way into the Welsh squad for the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

And the question now seems to be is his career coming to an abrupt end?

Flawed Genius

Since making his debut for his country back in 2001, Henson has often been described as a ‘flawed genius’ who had all the talent in the world but who has also done is utmost to throw it down the drain.

In the early stages of his career, Henson had some outstanding years and his flamboyant style of play was a breath of fresh air for rugby.

His performances in the Welsh Grand Slam triumph in 2005 were immense and he displayed all the qualities necessary to become a world class talent for years to come.

But for all his talent on the rugby field, he was never too far away from controversy off it and has had various encounters with the police over his antics.

He was thrust into the media spotlight when he started dating singer Charlotte Church before splitting up in May last year.

Henson got bitten by the fame bug and before long rugby was playing second fiddle to his celebrity lifestyle which, along with Church, was dubbed the Welsh’ version of Posh & Becks.

Rugby seemed to be a secondary thought for Henson and this was confirmed when he announced he was to take time out of the game to explore other avenues and ultimately this contributed to his fall from grace.

His self-imposed exile lasted 19 months and in that time he appeared in celebrity reality shows such as 71 Degrees North and Strictly Come Dancing, in which he described his success as better than his Grand Slam achievements.

Henson said he went on Strictly to show ‘the real Gavin Henson’ but I, like many others, would have preferred to see Henson doing what he does best and that is playing rugby.

His situation echoes similarities to the trials and tribulations of snooker star Ronnie O’Sullivan, who has battled his own demons throughout his career despite being supremely gifted in his sport.

Henson could be a very good rugby player but like O’Sullivan his head is not in the right place and until he gets back in the zone, he is in danger of being one of sport’s wasted talents.

Opportunities Wasted

When he made his return to rugby with Saracens last year, many thought it would be a new lease of life which would propel him back to his former glories.

But after just four games with the London club, he was off across the Channel to France where he has managed to alienate himself from his teammates at Toulon within weeks of joining the club.

Henson says he is misunderstood but it’s hard to fathom when he demands where he wants to play within days of being at a club, as was the apparent case at Saracens.

This can’t go down well with the established members of the team and it seems to be very much a case of looking after number one where Henson is concerned.

His professionalism has always been questionable and this was evident he failed to turn up to a training session with former club Ospreys following a row with the coaching staff.

Henson has been described by pundits as a ‘problem child’ and it will remain to be seen if any club, home or abroad, will risk taking the chance on Henson that could ultimately save his career.

Having been involved in two Grand Slam winning Welsh teams, Henson should have gone onto bigger and better things but through his own petulance he has gone into free fall and at 29, could be seeing his rugby career coming to a premature end.

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