Johnson: No contact from Henson
August 21, 2010
Gavin Henson has yet to signal his intentions to the Ospreys © Getty Images
Ospreys coach Scott Johnson has revealed he has yet to speak to Gavin Henson regarding the Wales international's future.
Henson has not played rugby for over a year, but has been linked with a move to the Aviva Premiership in recent days. However, the former Lion has not done any pre-season training with his region and his coach has not heard from him since last season.
The talented back walked away from rugby after a string of injuries and his last game was the Ospreys' Anglo-Welsh Cup defeat to Gloucester in March, 2009. However, reports in the Welsh media suggest he could be on the verge of a return to the game with a host of English clubs reported to be interested.
And Johnson admitted he does not know what the future holds for the 28-year old.
"I had a meeting with Gavin about this time last year," Johnson told the Western Mail. "I shook his hand and wished him the best. I said to him: 'If you want to come and talk rugby, come back to me and we will talk rugby.' That is the last conversation I have had with Gavin Henson.
"I have been very respectful of what has been discussed in that meeting, but I do have a duty of care to 40-odd other blokes. Until Gavin walks through my office door and says I want to talk about rugby, my job is to worry about the other 40 on the shop floor."
And Johnson compared the dilemma facing the player with that of legends Barry John and Gary Ella who walked away in their prime.
"Gavin has got different things to contend with to when I coached him before," said Johnson. "I look back to when I played and Mark Ella was confronted with similar circumstances and he retired at 24 and 25. The game lost a freakish talent at a very young age back then. Barry John was identical here and retired at a very young age. It happens and you cannot explain why people make those decisions.
"We can sit there and say how can they walk away. but we aren't walking in their shoes. I am a big believer in letting people walk in their own shoes and find their own path and you have to respect that. It will be a loss. but the beauty out of that loss is that we are talking about the Gareth Owens and Dan Biggars of this world. Out of this, you have new players coming through and we have to focus on those."
Johnson is also keen to tie down another important star on a longer contract as James Hook renegotiates his deal. The Lion has been linked with a move to France, but his coach hopes he will commit to the Ospreys.
"It's always a tricky time at contract negotiations. but you want James to do what is right for him," said Johnson. "We have to sell what we do and make sure we do our part right in that. We do think we are doing our part right.
"Hopefully, that will be good enough for James. He is an integral part of what we stand for: he is a local person, we have developed him and on top of that he is extremely talented. He ticks a lot of boxes for us and we are very keen to keep him and, hopefully, he is keen to remain. We want to keep him. but ultimately it is his decision."
Johnson will reveal next week whether he intends to retain Ryan Jones as captain as there is concern at the Ospreys about the No.8's ability to balance the skippering of his country in a World Cup year and the responsibilities of leading his club.
"We are close to making a decision," said Johnson. "We are taking a lot of things into consideration: the needs of our team, the needs of Ryan and the needs of the nation.
"When you are the leader of two organisations, it is just very difficult to do two jobs. That's whether you are John Eales or George Gregan. It's hard to lead and then concentrate on yourself and your performance. We are very conscious of the fact that we don't want to load one person with too much work.
"It's very difficult to balance two jobs and we have to take into consideration it is a World Cup year. Those demands are double in a year like this. We are very aware of Ryan's needs, our needs because he is an integral part of us and we also have to keep an eye on what is in the best interests of the Welsh team."