Is Gavin Henson The Future of Professional Rugby?

Six years ago, give or take a couple of months it looked like he might be. He’d just kicked Wales to victory over England and played a large part in their winning of the Grand Slam that year. Beyond the game he was, we are lead to believe,  being pursued by the multi-millionaire songstress Charlotte Church. He was the undoubted winner of Rugby’s Orangest man competition and a Lions tour beckoned, things couldn’t have been going better for him. Back then, for this future star to be in his current position could only be imagined by the most vehemently committed pessimist.

Fast forward to the present day and where exactly does he sit? What position is he in? The Toulon  Club President Mourad Boudjellal  has described him as  “difficult to manage” and has also described him as:

He’s a cut above and makes me think of Sonny Bill Williams.

In all honesty the only thing that makes me think of Sonny Bill and Henson is wondering what might have happened if Toulon had managed to sign Sonny Bill Williams, as they had hopedto do, also that he was present during Henson’s drama queen antics. A weeks ban may easily have been a weeks bed rest had that have been the case. Shame.

However, whether or not Henson is the kind of guy you want to go for a beer with or not is not what this is about(If you do, I suggest getting out more, joining a social society or some such). It is about the future of the game and whether or not he is it. I fear he might be.

Given his conduct over recent years it seems ironic to even use the moniker ‘professional’ to describe him, but that he is, a paid professional of the really beautiful game that many of us adore, adore it for those qualities that sets it apart from so many others. Qualities like camaraderie, sportsmanship, commitment, qualities that Henson has little of yet still occupies vast column and screen inches. How can one who displays so little of these qualities, still be playing at one of the highest standards and be looking at a recall to his International squad, a standard that Henson himself felt it would only take ‘one or two games’ after a two year self-enforced lay off to achieve.

The answer as far as I can deduce is cash. Cash money. Henson may not be a great addition to any squad but he must be a great addition to any franchise as a whole. He brings with him a media spotlight once reserved only for footballers which club owners, even taking into account the headaches caused to their coaches, must relish in. He is undoubtedly one of those who brings coverage from other areas, brings interest from those not interested in the sport, as a club owner he is exactly the kind of player you are looking for….

And he’s not the only one. A few weeks ago I found myself in front of a once loved sporting quiz, a picture of Ben Foden’s left eye appeared and a dancer friend of mine, without drawing breath, positively identified them. BTW I’m not for a moment saying dancers have no interest in Rugby, I am saying however that our only previous conversation on the sport was when she remarked it wasn’t fair, as there were to many players on the pitch and the ball had to go backwards, an aficionado She is not. She is clearly though, an expert on Ben Foden and has gained this expert knowledge through the Pulitzer winning Journalism of Hello/OK/et al. Yet she also knew who he played for and even his position, his owners are surely encouraging him to brawl with more taxi drivers in the hope of getting a few more Northampton ladies to the Heineken Cup final.

So its goodbye to the likes of Willie John, Brian Moore and Garin Jenkins. Hello Henson, Cipriani, Fogle*. Brilliant.


*I give it 18 months…

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