Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Peter Bills: Arrogant Henson is definitely no Lion

It’s already the silly season for the British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa next May. Anyone who has ever written a line about the game is selecting his or her dream Lions Test XV. And some bloody daft ideas there have been, too...

One hoary old chestnut concerns the (occasional) Welsh centre Gavin Henson. Another involves the young Irish centre Luke Fitzgerald.

Let’s take Henson first. A colleague was reminding me of one particular incident concerning Henson a year or two back. He turned up for a press conference before a match, indicated he would like to ask Henson a few questions and was introduced by the media manager. That was the start of it. He didn’t get a lot further.

‘Who are you, then’ asked Henson in an arrogant tone.‘What do you want’ was his next question, followed by:

‘Why should I be bothered talking with you’.

The intended interviewer explained it was nothing out of the ordinary or controversial but of course, if Henson didn’t want to do it, he was within his rights not to.

‘In that case, forget it’ was the response.

A distinguished old Welsh international marked my card on Gavin Henson long ago. The great man, an absolute legend throughout the rugby playing world, told of an encounter he’d had with Henson, the then young Welsh player.

“He told me, he didn’t know whether he could really be bothered with worrying about rugby too much longer. He said he’d won a cap, got a fabulous motor car and he’d won games virtually off his own bat so why bother too much more” were the words reported to me.

I wonder if Gavin Henson has changed much from those incidents and days. Somehow, I doubt it. The celebrity nonsense does daft things to immature, intellectually limited human beings. I just ask this: would the Lions want a guy like that on their tour next year? I reckon they’d be better off with a kid still to prove himself but prepared to bust a gut to make it.

All of which brings me to young Irish centre Luke Fitzgerald (below left). I have no reason to suppose he follows in Henson’s arrogant ways, but I honestly wonder when I read some so-called expert’s Lions Test XV and see Fitzgerald’s name in it.

For heaven’s sake, the kid has only just started in Test rugby. He’s still learning the game at that level and he has a huge amount of progress to make.

With all due respects, if the Lions selectors are thinking of Fitzgerald as one of their Test centres for next year then they are in trouble. The cupboard must be pretty bare if a young kid still to make it is being lined up for their Test side.

Much of course depends on the Six Nations Championship which starts in February. The Lions selectors will be hoping desperately it throws up some quality play and quality players. If it doesn’t they’re in the soup.

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