Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Henson returns to Test action

Gavin Henson will return to Test rugby on Saturday after an absence of more than two years when Wales play the Barbarians in Cardiff.

The 29-year-old, who is currently without a club after failing to secure a new contract with wealthy French club Toulon, starts at inside centre.

Henson has not represented Wales since the 2009 RBS 6 Nations campaign finale against Ireland, but he will now win his 32nd cap and have a chance to start pressing claims for World Cup squad selection later this summer.

Ex-Ospreys star Henson had brief stints with Saracens and Toulon this season, his first competitive rugby since entering a self-imposed exile of more than 18 months from the game following repeated injury setbacks.

Henson has never played in a World Cup, and Saturday's Millennium Stadium encounter starts Wales' pre-tournament preparations, which continue with August fixtures against England (twice) and Argentina.

Cardiff Blues flanker Sam Warburton captains a team that sees Newport Gwent Dragons number eight Toby Faletau and Ospreys prop Ryan Bevington make their Test debuts, with three more uncapped players on bench duty - Dragons hooker Lloyd Burns, Blues prop Scott Andrews and Scarlets centre Scott Williams.

Faletau's fellow Dragons - wing Aled Brew and lock Luke Charteris - gain recalls, with back-row regular Ryan Jones starting in the second-row alongside Charteris. Gatland is without the services of several front-line players, including Six Nations skipper Matthew Rees, wing Shane Williams, full-back Lee Byrne, centres Jamie Roberts and James Hook, plus prop Adam Jones.

The Barbarians line-up, which will be announced on Thursday, is likely to include Wales international forwards Martyn Williams and Iestyn Thomas.

Stoddart (Scarlets); North (Scarlets), Davies (Scarlets), Henson (unattached), Brew (Newport Gwent Dragons); S Jones (Scarlets), Phillips (Ospreys); Bevington (Ospreys), Bennett (Ospreys), James (Ospreys), R Jones (Ospreys), Charteris (Newport Gwent Dragons), Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), Warburton (captain, Cardiff Blues), Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).

Replacements: Burns (Newport Gwent Dragons), Andrews (Cardiff Blues), AW Jones (Ospreys), Turnbull (Scarlets), Knoyle (Scarlets), Priestland (Scarlets), Williams (Scarlets).


From Belfast Telegraph