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Is Gavin Henson worth the risk for London Welsh?

Gavin Henson is a high risk signing for London Welsh, of that there is no doubt. The potential for him to become the story and not the team is huge and he has built a reputation over the last few years of leaving clubs soon after joined amid a cloud of rumour and uncertainty, his sacking from the Cardiff Blues after a drunken incident on a flight after a match in Glasgow being the latest.

He is not just a back page icon but a front page nuisance at times too and Welsh, who will surely be bidding to stay in the Premiership by making teamwork and camaraderie their greatest asset, much like Exeter, simply cannot afford for the front page side of Henson to rear its ugly head.

With every risk though comes the potential for reward – that is after all why we take them. With Henson that reward, like the risk, is high. At his best Henson is one of the most brilliant backs in world rugby, the way he seems to glide effortlessly across the ground with the ball in hand is one of the best sights in rugby. Lyn Jones has signalled his intent to play Henson at fly half, which is understandable, he is a prodigious talent and Jones will want Henson influencing his play as early as possible.

It is my opinion however that 12 is his best position, he offers something which few players in that position can offer, the physicality to be able to make an impact as both a carrier and defender but also the deft handling, running and offloading skills to be able to unlock even the toughest of defences. It is the type of player that every Home Nations side has been looking for.

His long range place kicking and kicking out of hand will be significant for London Welsh too. They are unlikely to set the league alight with their try scoring, so the ability to make teams nervous about giving away penalties because of Henson’s boot will be invaluable, and could be the difference between winning and losing those tight games that they will try to create.

Jones will be confident of getting the best out of Henson, after all he was the Ospreys coach for Henson’s best years, and won two Celtic league titles with him in 2005 and 2007, and he knows him well. He has also brought in Sonny Parker the centre who was Henson’s teammate for a number of years with Wales and the Ospreys, it is a wise move, surrounding Henson with the right people will be key.

For me though there is one major part of the Gavin Henson singing that makes me believe and hope that it works – he is Welsh. My signing Henson and Parker, London Welsh have signalled their intention to be exactly that, London Welsh, this may well help them to create an ‘us against them’ mentality and if they can get the whole squad, and Henson in particular, to buy into that, they could really begin to throw up some surprises.

Lyn Jones is no novice, and he will use every last bit of his experience to get the most out of his squad and step one is to make sure they are united together. London Irish ceased to have that Irish core a long time ago, there was Bob Casey but that always seemed more that his being Irish was by the by. In my view it is important for the Exiles clubs to have a genuinely ‘exile’ core to them.

For London Welsh, Henson could be the making or breaking of their season, what is certain though is that Lyn Jones will create the perfect environment for Henson to flourish, whether he does will be up to Henson himself.

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