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Gatland holds out an olive branch to Henson

Wales coach Warren Gatland last night summoned Gavin Henson from the international wilderness and urged him to grasp his World Cup chance.

Henson, who last played for Wales during the 2009 RBS Six Nations Championship, features among a 26-man squad from which Gatland will select his team to tackle the Barbarians in Cardiff on June 4.

His call-up comes after the Toulon centre was suspended by his club while they investigated an altercation involving the 29-year-old and team-mates following a league victory over Toulouse last month.

But Henson then gained a second chance, being restored to Toulon's squad and appearing as a substitute during the defeat against Montpellier on Saturday.

Number eight Andy Powell, though, who left Aviva Premiership side Wasps by mutual consent last week after the club probed a London bar-room brawl that left him nursing a head injury, is not included.

Gatland said: “This game gives us an opportunity to get Gavin back into the fold. He hasn't been involved for a while, and we want to have a look at a quality player.

“I am pretty sure the marketing team are pretty happy about it, although I haven't had that discussion with them. It (his selection) is definitely a rugby reason. “What I’d like to talk about with Gavin Henson is as a rugby player.

“I know there have been certain issues, but all I can say about Gavin is that when he has been in our squad you couldn't get a guy who has been more professional in terms of the training environment. He has played well for us.

“(Wales backs coach) Rob Howley rang him today and spoke to him, and he's delighted to have an opportunity.

“I think he knows this is an opportunity for him to go to the World Cup. If we can get the best out of Gavin, I think it would be good for Wales.

“When you pick a squad, you might take the risk of picking someone like Gavin who hasn't had a lot of rugby, and you have got to be careful you don't have four or five players in the squad who haven't played a lot of rugby.

“We have been prepared to take that risk with Gavin to want to have a look at him back in the fold.”

Henson took more than 18 months out of rugby since he last gained Test honours — initially while he recovered from injury — and then appearing on two network television shows, including Strictly Come Dancing.

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Wales leave for the World Cup in New Zealand in under four months' time. After the Barbarians, they face three August warm-up games against England (twice) and Argentina.

Powell, meanwhile, has missed out behind the likes of uncapped, but in-form, Newport Gwent Dragons number eight Toby Faletau, although Gatland has stressed he remains in his thoughts.


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