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Saracens 35 London Welsh 14 – Sarries go top: Match report

Saracens 35 London Welsh 14: Sarries go top as Strettle's hot streak continues

By
Mike Dawes

PUBLISHED:

17:02 GMT, 3 March 2013

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UPDATED:

17:02 GMT, 3 March 2013

David Strettle continued to push for an England recall by sealing a bonus point win for Saracens against beleaguered London Welsh that took them to the top of the Aviva Premiership.

The in-form winger followed up his double at Leicester last week by running in Sarries' fourth try as they took themselves four points clear of Harlequins at the summit.

It rounds off a difficult week for Welsh, who find out their fate over the alleged ineligibility of scrum-half Tyson Keats at an RFU hearing on Tuesday which is threatening to seal their fate in their battle against the drop.

Man of the moment: Strettle crosses the whitewash to score late on for Sarries

Man of the moment: Strettle crosses the whitewash to score late on for Sarries

The visitors got off to a disastrous start when Keats' kick in the first minute was charged down by Alistair Hargreaves, leading to a penalty and an easy three points for Charlie Hodgson.

Unsurprisingly, Saracens were having the lion's share of possession in the early stages and soon doubled their lead when Hodgson was given another simple kick at goal from under the posts.

A horribly-executed scrum then led a Welsh player being penalised for going in off his feet at a ruck, but Hodgson was this time unable to punish them as he kicked wide.

Completely against the run of play, London Welsh scored the game's first try after 26 minutes when Julio Cabello's off-load bounced nicely for Seb Stegmann on the left wing.

Flying start: Stegmann races clear for relegation-threatened Welsh

Flying start: Stegmann races clear for relegation-threatened Welsh

The debutant sold two Saracens players a dummy which both bought – and he could not believe his luck as he sauntered over, although Gavin Henson's missed conversion meant the hosts retained their lead.

But the visitors then lost Canadian winger Phil Mackenzie to the sin-bin and a few minutes later conceded a penalty try as a Sarries lineout led to a maul that was illegally dragged down.

To make matters worse, prop Tom Bristow was yellow-carded for the offence, but while they were down to 14 men, Henson knocked over a penalty.

High hopes: Joubert collects lineout ball for Saracens

High hopes: Joubert collects lineout ball for Saracens

However, yet more ill-discipline from the Exiles allowed Hodgson to slot another penalty before Henson reduced the gap to 16-11 with a scrappy drop goal that clipped the crossbar right on half-time.

Saracens managed to put more daylight between the sides seven minutes into the second half when a sweeping move involving Hodgson and Duncan Taylor led to Joel Tomkins holding off his tackler to score, with the former converting.

To London Welsh's credit, this latest setback still did not break their spirit and they brought the deficit back down to nine points with another Henson penalty.

Full stretch: Will Fraser adds another five points to Sarries' total

Full stretch: Will Fraser adds another five points to Sarries' total

The inevitable raft of substitutions hurt the game's rhythm somewhat, Hodgson seeing a penalty come back off the left-hand post.

But Sarries took a huge step towards victory just after the hour mark when Strettle found Schalk Brits, whose off-load allowed Will Fraser to just about finish in the corner, with the try awarded by the TMO.

Still Welsh refused to lie down and the visitors thought they had a route back in the game when Henson touched down on the right wing – only to see the try chalked off for obstruction by Tom Arscott in the build-up.

The outcome was settled with eight minutes remaining when Saracens sealed the bonus point after Strettle went through a gap that appeared to be made by Tomkins holding back Henson.

London Welsh 25 Sale 26: Danny Cipriani edges out Gavin Henson in relegation battle

London Welsh 25 Sale 26: Cipriani comes edges out Henson in relegation battle

By
Rob Wildman

PUBLISHED:

17:57 GMT, 17 February 2013

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UPDATED:

00:06 GMT, 18 February 2013

Gavin versus Danny proved to be an evenly-fought sideshow at the Kassam Stadium on Sunday in a raw relegation battle.

Sale edged the tussle thanks to tries either side of half-time which helped them to only their fourth Premiership win of the season.

If their careers had gone to plan Gavin Henson and Danny Cipriani would have been preparing for Six Nations games rather than being rival club fly halves as they attempt to rebuild careers.

Fluency: Sale's Danny Cipriani was the linchpin in a vital win for the Sharks over their fellow relegation strugglers

Fluency: Sale's Danny Cipriani was the linchpin in a vital win for the Sharks over their fellow strugglers

Both enjoyed impressive games. Henson
took the London Welsh sponsor’s man-of-the-match award, but it was
Cipriani’s Sale who emerged victorious in a fraught, penalty–strewn
game.

‘Relief, that’s the best word,’ said
Steve Diamond, Sale’s director of rugby. ‘But we are still bottom and
have Harlequins and Leicester to come in the next two weeks so we are
not out of the mire.’

Yet Sale are daring to hope at the
bottom of the 12-team competition. This was a second successive win,
following a similar triumph over Exeter, and four points here put them a
point behind 11th-placed London Irish and three off Welsh.

Battle: London Welsh's Jonathan Mills is tackled by Sale Sharks' Dan Baird

Battle: London Welsh's Jonathan Mills is tackled by Sale Sharks' Dan Baird

And there is
no doubting that in Cipriani they have an attacking No 10 who could yet
lead them to safety.

He helped make a crucial try for
scrum-half Will Cliff just before half-time, producing the acceleration
and distribution, alongside wing Charlie Amesbury, which gained him
England recognition.

He also kicked 13 points before being
replaced by Nick Macleod who is considered to be more dependable and a
better defender for such tense finales.

Offload: Sale's Danny Cipriani passes under the attention of London Welsh's Adam Balding

Offload: Sale's Danny Cipriani passes under the attention of London Welsh's Adam Balding

Henson, playing his first full game in
three months due to injury, also produced play that brought back
memories of his best days for Wales. He landed one long-distance penalty
attempt and set up wing Phil Mackenzie for his team’s only try in the
48th minute.

It was a beautifully-timed pass by
Henson whose conversion put Welsh 22-20 ahead. He then banged over a
second penalty to increase the lead to 25-20 only for Cipriani to reply
in the 60th minute.

It was Cipriani’s last contribution,
Macleod kicking the penalty nine minutes from time which put his team a
decisive 26-25 ahead.

Strike: Gavin Henson scored eight points for Welsh, but that was not enough

Strike: Gavin Henson scored eight points for Welsh, but that was not enough

Stopped: London Welsh's Julio Cabello falls short of the line as Welsh looked to get a late winner

Stopped: London Welsh's Julio Cabello falls short of the line as Welsh looked to get a late winner

Welsh’s head coach Lyn Jones said: ‘We
just did not take our chances when we had them.’ After Cipriani put
Sale ahead in the ninth minute, Welsh fed off Sale’s poor discipline
for Alex Davies to kick three penalty goals followed by Henson’s
long-distance toe-bunger.

But it was a series of rash Welsh errors which allowed Sale back.

Cipriani kicked another penalty and then escaped down the right, with Amesbury, to make Cliff’s try

Sale continued on the attack after the
break and Dan Braid, an impressive arrival from New Zealand, scampered
in for the second try.

Welsh regained the lead when Henson made Mackenzie’s try but Sale held their nerve.

Five points: Phil MacKenzie of London Welsh dives over to score their only try of the match

Five points: Phil MacKenzie of London Welsh dives over to score their only try of the match

London Welsh 16 Bath 9: – match report

London Welsh 16 Bath 9: Super Scott boosts Exiles survival hopes with 70-yard try

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UPDATED:

18:28 GMT, 4 November 2012

A 70-metre try from wing Nick Scott with the last action of the match gave London Welsh an unlikely but crucial win in their battle for Aviva Premiership survival.

Scott picked off Stephen Donald's telegraphed pass and had sufficient pace to hold off the cover for the match-winning try, which Gordon Ross converted.

It was the only try in a desperately poor game and a draw would have been a fair result as neither side played well enough to deserve a win.

Charge: Nick Scott piles through the Bath defence

Charge: Nick Scott piles through the Bath defence

Bath had the better scoring opportunities but though they went close on a number of occasions, they failed to take them. They had the more inventive backs but their scrum was continually under pressure.

Welsh were dogged throughout but provide no attacking spark and until Scott's effort, never threatened the try line.

Bath had an early chance for points but Donald was off target with a 40-metre penalty attempt.

Moments later, Welsh had their opportunity which they also failed to take as Gavin Henson was narrowly wide with his 45-metre kick – but with 10 minutes gone, the outside half was successful from 40 metres to put his side ahead.

Despite this reverse, Bath had the better of the first 15 minutes, desperate defence keeping the visitors out as Ben Williams and Michael Claassens made holes in the Welsh defence.

Against the run of play, the hosts broke out to win a penalty for Henson to extend their lead with a simple 25-metre kick.

Leap: Martin Purdy wins a line-out for London Welsh

Leap: Martin Purdy wins a line-out for London Welsh

The second quarter was more evenly contested, with the Welsh pack matching their opponents, but following a sustained drive from the Bath forwards the hosts were penalised and Donald made no mistake from 30 metres out.

The remainder of the half saw an abundance of penalty awards and a procession of aimless kicking, with Donald and Tom Arscott the worst culprits.

With the last movement of the half, Bath lock Dave Attwood did get over the line but he was held up by some stout home defence, allowing Welsh to retain their fortunate 6-3 lead at the interval.

Bath began strongly after the restart. Powerful runs from Williams and Matt Banahan gained them some momentum but the visitors lost a crucial scrum in front of the Welsh posts when they were easily pushed off their own ball.

However they did gain some reward when after 51 minutes Donald kicked his second penalty to tie up the scores.

No trouble: Tyson Keats gets his pass away during the match at the Kassam Stadium, Oxford

No trouble: Tyson Keats gets his pass away during the match at the Kassam Stadium, Oxford

With 20 minutes to go both teams made changes, with Henson and Banahan being the major casualties as they were replaced by Ross and Horacio Agulla respectively.

Exiles lock Kirill Koulemine was penalised for pulling down at the line-out and a well struck penalty from Donald put Bath into the lead for the first time.

With 10 minutes to go, Bath conceded a scrummage penalty. Ross' 45-metre kick was badly struck and fell short but with 90 seconds remaining on the, clock the outside half was successful from 30 metres to bring his side level.

Scott's heroics at the death then sealed the win.

Wasps 29 London Welsh 19: Match report

Wasps 29 London Welsh 19: Wade at the double to deny Exiles

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UPDATED:

18:33 GMT, 28 October 2012

Two superb tries from Christian Wade were the highlights of Wasps win over a dogged but limited London Welsh side at Adams Park.

The visitors had no answer to the pace and elusiveness of the 20-year-old wing, who must surely be in the future thoughts of the national selectors, having been omitted from the recently announced squad for the autumn internationals.

Tom Varndell also impressed with two tries but Wasps should have won by a far greater margin. They were careless at times and it didn't help that Nicky Robinson missed five from his six attempts.

Diving over: Christian Wade goes over for a try against London Welsh

Diving over: Christian Wade goes over for a try against London Welsh

Wasps suffered a blow before the match when England squad member, James Haskell, withdrew with an illness.

The home side made a dream start opening the scoring in the third minute. Welsh wing, Phil Mackenzie, carelessly knocked on allowing the hosts a scrum on the 22 metre line. Wasps won the ball and moved the ball sweetly along the line for Wade to speed past the cover defence for the try.

Robinson missed the conversion but soon afterwards was successful with a 35 metre penalty.

On the charge: Christian Wade beats the London Welsh defence to break for the line

On the charge: Christian Wade beats the London Welsh defence to break for the line

Gavin Henson had Welsh's first opportunity for points with a 45 metre penalty attempt but he lost his footing as he made contact resulting in his kick falling short.

However he made amends with his next effort, this time from 20 metres out, to leave Welsh 8-3 behind.

Wasps dominated the first half hour in terms of possession and territory and they deservedly extended their lead when Lee Thomas and Wade worked Varndell in the clear on half-way.

The wing took his chance by outflanking the cover for an excellent individual try.

High jump: Marco Wentzel wins the line out

High jump: Marco Wentzel wins the line out

Henson attempted an ambitious 60 metre penalty but his kick fell comfortably short but when Marco Wentzel was offside, the outside half fired over a 50 metre kick.

On the stroke of half-time an alert Lee Thomas dropped a wide-angled goal in impressive style to give Wasps a 16-6 lead but that success was tempered when the influential Joe Simpson was stretchered off with a leg injury after the players had left the field for the break.

Early in the second half Welsh missed a chance to reduce the arrears when Henson was off target with a 45 metre penalty and they were made to pay when Wade scored a breathtaking second try.

Offload: Andrea Masi gets the ball away before he is tackled

Offload: Andrea Masi gets the ball away before he is tackled

Robinson fielded a clearance kick just inside his own half and fed Wade. The wing's brilliant footwork evaded two defenders before accelerating away from Tyson Keats for a stunning score. Robinson missed his third conversion attempt.

From their first attack of note, the Welsh collected their first try when following a quick dart from Keats and a neat pass from Alfie To'oala, Mckenzie was able to force his way over in the corner.

Henson and Robinson both missed penalties so Wasps held a 21-11 advantage going into the final quarter but it wasn't long before Wasps sealed victory with their bonus point try when Varndell was presented with an easy run in.

The spirited Welsh responded with their second try when prop Franck Montanella drove over from close range and two minutes from the end, a penalty from Gordon Ross gave them hope of a bonus point but that was almost immediately extinguished when Lee Thomas responded with a 30 metre effort.

London Welsh 23 Saracens 28: Gavin Henson debut ends in defeat

London Welsh 23 Saracens 28: Henson debut ends in defeat but Exiles pick up bonus point

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UPDATED:

16:33 GMT, 7 October 2012

Sticking the boot in: Hodgson scored 28 points

Sticking the boot in: Hodgson scored 28 points

Gavin Henson was denied a winning debut for London Welsh by former England fly-half Charlie Hodgson who scored all 28 points for Saracens.

Hodgson grabbed a first-half try, added the conversion and landed seven penalties from eight attempts in this Aviva Premiership encounter at the Kassam Stadium.

Despite soaking up Saracens pressure for most of the match, Welsh had Sarries hanging on at the end after producing two breakaway tries from Canada wing Phil MacKenzie and full-back Tom Arscott.

Henson's boot contributed their other 13 points as they collected a losing bonus point.

The
30-year-old double Grand Slam-winning Welshman's first Premiership
appearance for the newly-promoted Exiles had been delayed after he
fractured his cheekbone in a pre-season match against former club
Scarlets.

But Henson,
called up in place of former Scotland international Gordon Ross, made
his mark with an assured performance for Welsh.

They were dealt an early blow when
lock Matt Corker was yellow-carded in the fourth minute as their pack
desperately tried to disrupt a series of forward drives by Saracens.

But, three minutes later, they broke out of defence to take the lead, totally against the run of the early play.

Just
inside the opposing half, MacKenzie kicked a loose ball deep into
Saracens territory and won the race to collect and cross the line,
leaving Henson a simple first conversion for his new club.

Debut: Henson appeared in a London Welsh shirt for the first time

Debut: Henson appeared in a London Welsh shirt for the first time

Debut: Henson appeared in a London Welsh shirt for the first time

The fly-half attempted to capitalise with a penalty kick from inside his own half but his effort fell just short.

Welsh were conceding a serious number of penalties and Hodgson, after striking the post from 50 metres in the 10th minute, pulled back three points with a straightforward kick from the 22-metre line five minutes later.

The almost constant pressure of the visitors finally forced the hard-pressed Welsh defence to crack in the 18th minute when Hodgson took a short pass from scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth, stepped inside and raced over between the posts before adding the conversion.

Hodgson stretched the lead with a penalty from 48 metres but, within two minutes, Henson cancelled it out when Sarries strayed offside 40 metres from their posts.

Bonus point: Welsh moved nine points clear of bottom-placed side Sale

Bonus point: Welsh moved nine points clear of bottom-placed side Sale

Bonus point: Welsh moved nine points clear of bottom-placed side Sale

But Hodgson struck two more penalties before half-time, with Henson pulling another back to restrict the visitors to a 19-13 lead at the interval.

Another burst through the Welsh defence by Hodgson should have resulted in a second try for Saracens but Andy Saull let the ball slip from his grasp as he stretched for the line.

Two more penalties from Hodgson increased Saracens' lead to 25-13 before Henson kicked his third penalty in the 60th minute.

But Welsh never gave up and they scored a second try when left-wing Nick Scott made a superb break from the halfway line before passing inside to full-back Arscott, who raced clear of the Saracens defence, cut inside and touched down behind the posts to leave Henson a simple conversion.

Kicking on: Saracens occupy the fourth play-off place

Kicking on: Saracens occupy the fourth play-off place

Kicking on: Saracens occupy the fourth play-off place

Hodgson landed his seventh penalty four minutes from time but it was not enough to deny the Exiles the hard-fought consolation point they deserved for their never-say-die efforts.

They finished the match driving the Saracens pack back towards their own line to force a penalty.

They elected to pack down and scrum-half Tyson Keats tried a burst down the short side but was dragged down just short of the line.

Saracens were forced to defend desperately but, despite conceding three penalties, they survived a series of late drives by the home forwards to hang on to their lead.

Gavin Henson injury – London Welsh take no action

No action over Henson injury after London Welsh accept no malice was involved

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UPDATED:

22:02 GMT, 29 August 2012

London Welsh have averted a drawn-out
conflict with the Scarlets over Gavin Henson’s latest injury setback,
by publicly conceding that no player from the region was at fault for
the incident which left him with a fractured cheekbone.

The 30-year-old former Wales centre
was forced to leave the field in the 33rd minute of a pre-season
friendly away to the Welsh side on Saturday.
And the next day he learned he would be out of action for six weeks after undergoing corrective surgery to the damaged area.

In the aftermath of the episode, the
Exiles had expressed anger at what they considered to be a reckless late
tackle — allegedly carried out by Scarlets prop Deacon Manu — and
indicated a desire to pursue the matter.

Six weeks out: Gavin Henson suffered a fractured cheekbone last Saturday

Six weeks out: Gavin Henson suffered a fractured cheekbone last Saturday

However, having closely assessed the collision which caused the injury, Welsh have concluded that no further action is required.

A statement released by the club read: ‘The club are satisfied that the injury to Gavin was caused by an accidental clash of heads. The club does not attach blame to any Scarlets player.’

Robbie Deans’ position as Australia coach is in the balance, nine months before the Lions head Down Under to face the Wallabies in a three-Test series, so much so that a major rival has claimed he will be feeling the mounting pressure.

‘He’s bound to be, he’s got to be, I think the players are too,’ said Steve Hansen, whose All Blacks side crushed Australia 22-0 in Auckland last Saturday.

‘They had the same look in their faces They were flabbergasted, “Where do we go next, what do we do next”

‘It’s not a great position to be in when you are like that.’ It was the first time the Wallabies had failed to score a point in a match against New Zealand for 50 years.

It was also a 14th defeat in 17 Tests for Deans against his home country and the 10th successive year that Australia have lost the Bledisloe Cup against their trans-Tasman rivals.

But Hansen attempted to defend his former Canterbury Crusaders coaching colleague.

He added: 'Just because Australia aren’t winning against us doesn’t make Robbie a bad coach.

'Any team that gets his services are going to benefit from it. They’re still the No 2 side in the world.'

Richard Haughton has left Championship newcomers Jersey after just one game to join French club Perpignan as a ‘medical joker’ on a short-term contract.

The 31-year-old former Wasps and Saracens wing- cum-full back has exploited an exit clause in his contract to accept an approach from the Catalans.

Gavin Henson will have tests after cheekbone injury

Henson set for hospital tests after cheekbone injury against Scarlets

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UPDATED:

14:08 GMT, 26 August 2012

Gavin Henson will undergo further tests on Sunday to confirm if he fractured a cheekbone in London Welsh's friendly defeat against Llanelli Scarlets.

Henson was taken to hospital and given X-rays and tests after he was tackled by Deacon Manu in the first minute in the 23-17 loss, and although he played on until the 33rd, he had to be replaced and could now miss the start of the season with Welsh facing Leicester on September 2.

A club spokesman said: 'Gavin underwent X-rays yesterday and will have further tests today and there has been no confirmation if his cheekbone has been fractured.

Treated: Gavin Henson is given medical attention

Treated: Gavin Henson is given medical attention

'Until we know the extent of the damage we will not know if he will miss the game against Leicester and there is not much more we can say at this point.'

London head coach Lyn Jones is trying to remain positive about the prognosis of the former Wales three-quarter.

'We're hoping for the best, but if it's the worst he's not the first player to get injured and we'll just have to be patient and deal with it,” Jones said, in quotes carried on the club website.

'These are things you've got to deal with in rugby. You've got to deal with thunderbolts all the time.

'No player wants to get injured in a pre-season friendly because it's hugely frustrating because of all the hard work that's been done leading up to the start of the season.'

Gavin Henson fractures cheekbone

Henson on sidelines as London Welsh new boy suffers fractured cheekbone

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UPDATED:

22:27 GMT, 25 August 2012

Gavin Henson has suffered a suspected fractured cheekbone.

The former Wales threequarter had been promised the No 10 jersey for London Welsh’s debut season in the Aviva Premiership.

But he is set to miss the opening clash against Leicester on September 2 and could face an extended period on the sidelines after being injured in a friendly against the Scarlets.

Blow: Gavin Henson suffered a fractured cheekbone

Blow: Gavin Henson suffered a fractured cheekbone

Henson was tackled by Deacon Manu in the first minute of the Exiles’ 23-17 defeat at Parc y Scarlets, and it is understood fuming London Welsh officials will query whether any citing action can be taken.

Head coach Lyn Jones said: ‘It was a late shoulder barge off the ball and he’s gone for precautionary X-rays. We’re hoping for the best but, if it’s the worst, he’s not the first player to get injured.

‘No player wants to get injured in a pre-season friendly because of all the hard work that’s been done leading up to it.

‘You have to deal with these things in rugby. So little about the sport and work is positive, you have to deal with thunderbolts all the time.

‘There’s no use crying over spilt milk and we have to move forward.’

Henson received treatment after the incident in the sixth minute but battled on before being replaced on 32 minutes.

Try hard: Gavin Henson congratulates team-mate Tom Baldwin

Try hard: Gavin Henson congratulates team-mate Tom Baldwin

He had spoken of his determination to do his talking on the pitch with the Exiles as he yet again attempted to relaunch his tarnished career. Now he faces an extended period on the sidelines.

The double Grand Slam-winning threequarter had his contract terminated by Cardiff Blues in April following a booze-fuelled incident on a flight from Glasgow.

It was the latest off-field incident to blight the former golden boy of Welsh rugby, but he linked up with his old Ospreys coach Jones at Old Deer Park earlier this month.

A London Welsh spokesman said: ‘Gavin suffered a bang on his cheekbone and has gone to hospital for a precautionary X-ray. We will make a statement as and when we know more.’

Henson was booed by small sections of the crowd after the clash as London Welsh medics provided treatment.

Gavin Henson relishing last shot at big time

This is my last shot at the big time, says Henson as he prepares to turn out for London Welsh

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UPDATED:

22:39 GMT, 24 August 2012

Gavin Henson will take his prized place at No 10 for the launch of London Welsh’s survival mission next weekend, armed with the desperate drive of a man who thought he was finished as a rugby player and knows this is his final shot at salvation.

The 30-year-old former Wales centre will take on the role of creative director for the Exiles at fly-half as they begin their crusade to stay afloat in the Aviva Premiership by hosting Leicester at Oxford’s Kassam Stadium.

Henson has been trying to scale the heights again since returning from an extended sabbatical in 2010 but abortive stints at Saracens and Toulon were followed by a miserable spell at Cardiff Blues, which ended abruptly in the aftermath of yet another alcohol-related controversy.

All eyes on you, Gavin: Henson poses for a London Welsh team photo

All eyes on you, Gavin: Henson poses for a London Welsh team photo

Back in action: Henson congratulates Tom Baldwin after his try in a pre-season game against Bath

Back in action: Henson congratulates Tom Baldwin after his try in a pre-season game against Bath

However, the belated promotion of London Welsh from the Championship has given him an unexpected opportunity for personal fulfilment under the guidance of coach Lyn Jones, who oversaw his rise to prominence years ago in Swansea.

Circumstances have suddenly conspired in his favour, as Henson admitted on Friday. ‘I am very lucky to have a chance here,’ he said. ‘This is my last chance. I am really excited and looking forward to the start of the season. I thought Cardiff would be my last club, and it was going to be, but I couldn’t end my career like that.

‘It (the move to London Welsh) has kept me in the game, to put things right. I was more or less finished rugby-wise. I thought that was it but I felt I had unfinished business. I have had to bite the bullet and try to put things right.

Gavin Henson at Cardiff

Gavin Henson at Toulon

Moving around: Henson in his time with Cardiff (left) and playing for Toulon (right)

‘From now on I’m making sure I stay on the straight and narrow. Hopefully I will get a fair crack. I can understand the perceptions people have of me, but I am totally focused on rugby and have been since I came back into the game. But things haven’t worked out for one reason or another.

‘I took my time out and it has been a rough ride trying to get back in. This is my last chance. How long my career lasts I have got no idea. I don’t put any years on it — it depends on how I am performing.’

Henson has been invigorated by the opportunity to link up with Jones again, describing him as ‘super intelligent rugby-wise’ and claiming he played the best rugby of his career under him at the Ospreys.
He would need to reach that sort of peak again if there is to be any hope of a Test recall, but Henson isn’t holding his breath, adding: ‘You wouldn’t say no but I am a million miles away from that. Wales have a good squad — they don’t need me.’

Glory days: Henson playing for Wales against England at Twickenham in 2008

Glory days: Henson playing for Wales against England at Twickenham in 2008

Meanwhile, Wales coach Warren Gatland has revealed he came close to leaving the post in favour of a return to his native New Zealand after the World Cup. ‘It was a toss of the coin,’ he said. ‘I had been offered the Waikato Chiefs job. I said to them, “Is there a chance of any movement on it You have offered me less money than I was on in 2007”.

‘They just said, “Things are tight at the moment. That’s the best we can do, take it or leave it”, so I said, “Thanks very much, I’ll leave it”.’

Gatland sought to re-emphasise his commitment to Wales on Friday night in light of the earlier remarks made in an ‘informal’ discussion during a university visit.

‘I am totally loyal and fully committed to Wales and to say otherwise is ridiculous,’ he said. ‘If I wasn’t committed do people seriously think I would stay for so long on the other side of the world from my family’

Gavin Henson"s London Welsh coach tries the straight talking approach

You've wasted years, Henson! Coach takes hard line with wayward Welsh star

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UPDATED:

21:34 GMT, 20 August 2012

As the man aiming to revive Gavin Henson’s career in the wider interests of keeping London Welsh in the Aviva Premiership, Lyn Jones showed that he is ready to adopt a straight-talking approach.

The former Ospreys coach, who presided over Henson’s emergence as a richly talented prospect more than a decade ago, offered a succinct, blunt assessment of the former Wales centre’s fall from grace in recent times.

‘Gav has had three or four years of fannying around and not being serious about his rugby,’ he said at the official launch of the 2012-13 Premiership season. ‘He has grown up and he realises now he has four or five years left in the game and he wants to give it his best shot. He is training hard and he’s enjoying himself.’

Time to get serious: Gavin Henson congratulates team mate Tom Baldwin after his try in a pre-season game

Time to get serious: Gavin Henson congratulates team mate Tom Baldwin after his try in a pre-season game

Henson is undoubtedly the highest-profile addition to the Exiles’ ranks this summer, since their promotion to the top division was belatedly confirmed following an appeal against the decision to reject them for not fulfilling the Minimum Standards Criteria.

If Welsh are to have any hope of survival on the back of an accelerated period of recruitment and preparation, the celebrity who will wear their No 10 shirt must rediscover some of his old creative spark and defensive clout which contributed to two Grand Slams for his country, in 2005 and 2008.

Since leaving the Ospreys in 2009 and taking an extended sabbatical from rugby, Henson has drifted around Europe, to Saracens in England, on to Toulon in France and back home to Wales for a brief stint with Cardiff Blues.

Controversy has stalked him and in April he was released by the Blues following the latest in a series of alcohol-related incidents. The decision by London Welsh to sign him this summer has been widely regarded as a calculated gamble, but Jones was adamant that it is one which could pay off for the club.

Controversial: Henson was sacked by Cardiff Blues for drinking and 'behaving inappropriately' on a flight from Glasgow to Cardiff

Controversial: Henson was sacked by Cardiff Blues for drinking and 'behaving inappropriately' on a flight from Glasgow to Cardiff

‘There’s a chance and a risk in everything you do in life,’ he said. ‘Gavin is no different from any other player we’ve signed this year — are they going to play well and react well I don’t know.

‘My best guess is that he will do well. He is a player with potential who hasn’t reached it yet. He realises that and wants to do well, and it’s my job to give him as much opportunity as possible to express himself as an outside half.

‘When someone has been in the game for as long as he has, he just needs a comfortable environment to come in and perform. All we can do is offer him an opportunity to come and enjoy his work and I’m sure the Aviva Premiership will benefit from having someone of his quality in the league.’

The glory days: Henson played a key role in helping Wales win the Grand Slam in 2005

The glory days: Henson played a key role in helping Wales win the Grand Slam in 2005

Asked if history suggests that he is perhaps the only coach who can bring out the best in Henson, Jones said: ‘I’ve no idea. Relationships are important in rugby and Gavin has had a difficult 18 months, so he just needs to settle down with us, which is what he’s doing.

‘We’ll just see what happens. The one thing we can say about him is he’s as good a defensive outside half as Jonny Wilkinson was.’

The coach who can help Henson give new purpose to a career which had seemed to be ebbing away to nothing is determined not to look back and try to understand where it began to go wrong. ‘I don’t know and I don’t care,’ said Jones. ‘What’s happened has happened, we’re just looking to the future.’

If Henson himself can replicate that attitude, there may be hope for him and Welsh yet.