Bath block Gavin Henson’s call-up to Wales trial
Bath refuse to sanction Gavin Henson's release to play for the Probables Squad in Wales trial
Gavin Henson’s dream of playing again for Wales has been dealt a cruel blow after his club Bath refused to sanction his release.
The 32-year-old—who won the last of his 33 caps in a 2011 Rugby World Cup warm-up match against England—was a surprise inclusion in the ‘Probables’ squad for Wales Senior Trial match in Swansea on Friday 30 May ahead of their summer tour of South Africa.
But centre’s hopes of a return after three years in the international wilderness look to be over.
“As it stands, we are unable to release the players for the game on the 30th, due to the Test window regulations that all 12 Aviva Premiership clubs agreed to via Premiership Rugby,” a Bath spokesman told WalesOnline.
The move comes as Premiership Rugby again flexes its muscles and stresses non-England players cannot be released for international duty that falls outside the IRB window.
It means Henson and club team-mate Paul James—who was named in the ‘Possibles’ squad—are among five Welsh players plying their trade in England who look likely to miss out on the crucial trial match.
That is despite the likelihood that several of Bath’s English players will be released to play for an England XV against the Barbarians at Twickenham on 1 June after the club failed to reach the Premierships play-offs.
Speaking after the squads were announced, Gatland said: “At the moment Gavin is probably fourth or fifth in line for a place in our midfield, but we do have injuries and this is an opportunity for him to be involved. He does provide cover and experience.
“I just hope common sense prevails, especially for those players whose seasons will have finished. After all, it would be difficult to consider Gavin Henson for the tour unless he plays in this trial game.”
Of the five England-based exiles, only Northampton Saints wing George North has a clause in his contract guaranteeing his release for international duty.
But the club were fined £60,000 by PRL in November for allowing North to play for Wales outside the international window, and other clubs have shown reluctance to follow suit.
North is almost certain to feature in the Aviva Premiership final on 31 May at Twickenham if the Saints overcome East Midlands rivals Leicester Tigers on Friday.
Tigers outside-half Owen Williams and Saracens hooker Rhys Gill are also affected by PRL’s policy, but could be involved in the Premiership final.
Meanwhile former Wales captain Ryan Jones—who left the Ospreys early to join Championship club Bristol this month—is hoping to help his new club navigate their way into the Premiership and could also miss out should they overcome Rotherham Titans to reach the Championship final.