Henson pleads for Ospreys release
September 16, 2010
Gavin Henson is unveiled as a contestant on the new series of Strictly Come Dancing © Getty Images
Gavin Henson has admitted that he is desperate to quit the Ospreys, explaining that his very public break-up with singer Charlotte Church has made life too uncomfortable for him within the team's dressing room.
The former Wales international, who has not played a competitive game in rugby in 18 months, says that he is still struggling to come to terms with issues in his private life and feels he would be best served by a move away from Wales, where he feels he is a constant topic of speculation and gossip - even amongst his team-mates.
"It's just tough," he told BBC Two's Scrum V in a special edition to be shown later today. "It's because I know the Ospreys players so well. Obviously there will be banter and the personal relationship with Charlotte is in all the newspapers.
"I'm a bit raw, to be honest. I don't want to face it. I want to be somewhere new where people are a little bit more respectful to ask about my business and just don't know who I am… and just have a fresh club and see where I am rugby-wise and then come back to Wales."
However, Henson still has nine months to run on his contract with the Ospreys and even though he has begged the region to release him, he is not yet sure if they will agree to do so.
"I had heart-to-heart talks with the Ospreys, I opened my heart to them really, told them what had gone on, I told them for compassionate reasons, for my mental state of mind, I need to go somewhere for the season," he said.
"I just wanted to have a season away. I love the Ospreys, I played with Swansea from 18 and naturally moved on to the Ospreys, that's my region, that's my club. I want to come back there, but now it's in the hands of the solicitors and I didn't want it to get there. It's tough."
The 28-year-old centre admitted that he hopes that a move away might even change the Welsh media's perception of him.
"I look on examples of Gareth Thomas and Stephen Jones - they left Wales and suddenly people were saying they were brilliant players, brilliant people because they left Wales," he said. "So I'm thinking: 'Maybe I'll get good press then if I leave Wales like they did and then come back.' So things like that go through my mind as well. But it's hard with the Charlotte situation."
Henson's plea for privacy has been viewed as deeply ironic by some given that he is currently competing in the latest series of Strictly Come Dancing. However, he defends himself by saying: "I just feel I need time away in London because I've got work here."
There are those that believe that the injury-plagued centre may never rediscover the form which made him one of the best players in the world but he is adamant that he still has what it takes to compete at the highest level, claiming that he could even reclaim his place in the Wales squad in time for next year's Six Nations.
"I really believe that I might only need one or two games to prove I've still got it and I think the Welsh team has slightly missed me a bit," he argues. "So if I can come back and be as good or better than I was when I last played or back to the standards of 2005/2004 - which I think I can now because my body's feeling good - then, yeah, I can get in that Six Nations squad.
"I just want to play for Wales: I want to play in the Six Nations, I really believe I can play in this year's Six Nations, and the World Cup."
The Welsh Rugby Union's recent decision to use Henson to model the national team's new kit also put the former British & Irish Lion at the centre of a media storm, with many current and former Wales internationals terming it disrespectful. He now admits that he was naïve to have agreed to the shoot but insists he meant no offence.
"I didn't know they [the Welsh Rugby Union] were going to do that. I just got asked 'would you do a photo in the new Welsh shirt?' I was a bit naïve there, then maybe," he said. "But I just got asked the question. They were asking ex-players and stuff and technically I may have been an ex-player, so I thought yeah, you know.
"There was no money involved or anything. They said the thing is good for grassroots rugby in Wales, so it was a chance to put on the Welsh jersey again and that was a nice feeling, putting that on. It was nice, it fitted well, but obviously when it's on the side of the stadium and I haven't played the game for like 18 months, then I can understand why people are annoyed.
"I didn't mean to annoy people, I thought I might have been doing a good thing, but hopefully people will see me in a Welsh jersey in the Six Nations and then it might all make a bit of sense."