Last chance saloon
July 12, 2012
Gavin Henson is a 'big name signing but although not necessarily for the right reasons' © Getty Images
The headline news this week was Gavin Henson's transfer to London Welsh and he will be one of a few players that will have much to prove this coming season. In Henson's case, it's probably a situation that suits both parties.
From a commercial standpoint for London Welsh, in their attempt to capture the headlines and boost attendances, he's ideal. He's a big name signing although not necessarily for the right reasons.
They would have missed out on the opportunity to sign some of the previously available talent due to them being in limbo but with Lyn Jones at the helm, he could bring out the best in Henson. He knows him well from his time at the Ospreys and London Welsh obviously think that he's the man to steer Henson on the right path. Jones has handled the whole matter well - he hasn't come out and said 'Gavin's misunderstood'; instead he's claimed that 'Gavin's made a lot of mistakes'.
But inevitably with Henson, it's got the chance of turning out bad for the club because if it goes all wrong then everyone will crack out the 'we told you so' line. Henson should realise that this is his last chance in rugby - if this fails then no one else will touch him.
In deciding to move to London Welsh, he's probably realised that he's not yet ready to give up on rugby with the showbiz life that he's courted over the past few years perhaps not really what it's all cracked up to be. I think Gavin's personality has probably contributed a lot to the ill-feeling felt towards him but it does not necessarily mean it is a true reflection of his character so if he can put this period behind him then it could work but it will need Henson to get his head down and work hard.
If he can stay away from the perils of off-field temptations, which got him into trouble at Cardiff and Toulon, then there's no reason why he can't be a real asset to London Welsh. Having Sonny Parker also in the team could be an important facet in him settling into the squad and London life.
One of the other headline transfers of the summer was Danny Cipriani signing for the Sale Sharks and in many ways you can draw parallels with the Henson transfer. These two guys aren't exactly the same as every other rugby player and that's fine, you need different people in rugby.
Sale supremo Steve Diamond is a completely different sort of individual to Lyn Jones and it's a case of 'my way or the highway' which could be exactly what Danny needs. If they end up clashing then it'll be one hell of a fall out. But I am sure that the finances reflect that.
Knowing Diamond, he is a very shrewd operator and there's no way he would've paid over the odds on a risk. Again, Danny will see this is as his last chance to get back into the England fold and in a city like Manchester, he needs to stay out of the bright lights and get on with his rugby.
He's hugely talented and if played at fly-half, he could fill the hole left by Charlie Hodgson. But I doubt we'll see either of them playing for their respective countries during the Six Nations. Henson perhaps has the better chance of the two as Warren Gatland seems to be a fan but with the sort of treatment Stuart Lancaster gave Danny Care when he stepped out of line earlier in the year, Cipriani will have to work very hard to get into the international reckoning. Care was probably more respected in his off-field attitude and being a team man than Cipriani so I think he may have almost reached a level where he will have to be playing better than the other 10's in the country, rather than on a par, to get a look in.
The move to Sale could be Cipriani's last chance to break into the national side © Getty Images
Among Cipriani's rivals on-show next season will be Shane Geraghty whose return to London Irish was another eye-catching move. I think the Exiles will see the value of his attacking game more than Northampton did as Brian Smith will probably look to let Geraghty loose rather than playing the more measured style of rugby that the Saints get in Stephen Myler. Geraghty is just one of a series of players who will be running out on Friday evening in the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Sevens Series and I am looking forward to seeing how he gets on.
It is such a difficult tournament to predict a winner for as you don't know what sort of teams will be playing with some Premiership sides fielding a really strong group of players and others looking at it as a development exercise. The teams will be at different stages of pre-season but you will see the usual names impressing. Harlequins and Saracens have traditionally done well and after seeing London Irish's team, they look to be taking it really seriously.
When Exeter came up from the Championship, they fielded a strong team so you may see London Welsh following suit. We'll see what happens but it is a great opportunity to blood young talent and get them used to playing in the surroundings of a Premiership rugby stadium, in a nice atmosphere and on a field where there's going to be lots of space to show off talent and pace.
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Ben Kay is a co-commentator for ESPN