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Henson handed chance to impress


Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland

Wales coach Warren Gatland admits Gavin Henson's selection in his RBS 6 Nations training squad was based on the centre's past exploits rather than his current form.

The 29-year-old was named in Gatland's 35-man party for next week's pre-tournament training camp in Poland, after which the Kiwi is likely to trim the squad down ahead of the Six Nations opener against Ireland in Dublin on February 5, despite having played just three games since joining the Cardiff Blues in October.

"There was a long debate about whether Gavin made the squad or not and it was more or less about us wanting to have a look at him on past performances and reputation and seeing where he is at," said Gatland.

The appearances for the Blues, two of which have come at full-back with the other in his favoured inside centre position, have yielded solid rather than spectacular performances, which is understandable given Henson has just returned from four months on the sidelines with the wrist injury that ended his World Cup hopes.

But in peak form Henson is a formidable asset, as he showed during the 2005 and 2008 Grand Slam campaigns, and Gatland says knowing what the 2005 Lions' tourist is capable of when at his best had a bearing when it came to selection.

"Like a number of players this is an opportunity for Gav to impress. Last time we were together before the World Cup he did well, he mixed it between filming 'The Bachelor' and playing a bit of rugby, but his attitude was great, he trained hard," he said.

"I can only talk about Gavin in terms how he is in our environment and he has always been great and there have been no issues, so it's a matter of we will sit down with him next week and see where his head is at."

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Gatland also included six uncapped players in his squad, with 18-year-old Cardiff Blues wing Harry Robinson being joined by in-form Ospreys centre Ashley Beck, scrum-half Rhys Webb and the Scarlets trio of lock Lou Reed, prop Rhodri Jones and full-back Liam Williams.

There were places for six players who ply their club trade outside Wales in the form of Lee Byrne, James Hook, Mike Phillips, Craig Mitchell, Andy Powell and Rhys Gill.

While Gatland is currently focused on the Six Nations, he suggested he would welcome an approach to be head coach of the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia in 2013, having been involved in the 2009 tour of South Africa.