Henson dances away from return
September 8, 2010
Gavin Henson has signed up for Strictly Come Dancing © Getty Images
Wales centre Gavin Henson has been confirmed as a contestant on BBC reality TV show Strictly Come Dancing just a day after outlining his desire to return to rugby in time for next year's Rugby World Cup.
The Ospreys midfielder has been on unpaid leave from the Welsh region since March 2009 after a string of injury problems. While he has often singled out the World Cup as a career aim, having missed out on squads in 2003 and 2007, rumours about his involvement with the popular programme have been frequent.
Former England internationals Austin Healey and Matt Dawson have previously featured on the show, which begins on September 11. Henson will be joined in competing by former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, former MP Anne Widdecombe and TV magician Paul Daniels, among others.
Wales coach Warren Gatland is keen to see Henson back playing as he formulates his plans for next year's tournament in New Zealand, but has admitted that he needs to return 'sooner rather than later' if he is to influence selection.
Despite his TV commitments, Henson was included in the marketing campaign for the new Wales playing strip, launched on Wednesday.
The campaign features Welsh players 'past and present' but has already begun to cause a stir, with current Test centre Jamie Roberts questioning the move via his Twitter account, Jamiehuwroberts. He wrote: "Is this an insult to current welsh International players....wonder what the welsh public will think?!"
Henson's Ospreys team-mate Jonathan Thomas reiterated that his absence is not an issue for the players and also sounded a word of warning to the two-time Grand Slam-winner.
"It doesn't affect us whatsoever," he told The Western Mail. "We don't regard him as a player here at the moment because he hasn't been here. It's been quite a number of months since he has been with us. It's not something we worry about and as far as we are concerned Gavin is getting on with his thing.
"If in the future he decides to come back that's up to him. It will be a lot to ask of him because he has spent that much time out of the game. Speak to any player who has been out of the game for 12 months with injury and they will tell you how difficult it is to come back.
"Take Ian Evans, he missed six months last year and it took him that much time again to get his confidence and his form back. Gavin has been out of the game for so much time, it will take him a while to come back."