RaboDirect Pro12 - Where next for Henson?
Tue, 03 Apr 08:25:00 2012
Boozy antics aboard a Saturday morning flight have left Gavin Henson bounced onto the steps outside rugby's last-chance saloon, pondering his future.
Cardiff Blues acted swiftly and decisively on Monday, sacking the twice Grand Slam-winning Welshman after his drink-fuelled escapades on the FlyBe flight from Glasgow.
The airline was equally unimpressed and banned the 30-year-old centre from flying with them for six months, citing their "zero tolerance attitude to unruly behaviour on board our aircraft".
Henson might have hoped an emphatic public apology would have spared him the axe, but there would appear to be little goodwill left in the bank for a player who has endured inglorious exits from his last three clubs -- Saracens, Toulon and now Cardiff.
The player said on Sunday he was "truly embarrassed" about his behaviour on the flight, on which he had "stupidly carried on drinking" and that he had let his team, sponsors and family down.
"I am prepared to co-operate 100 percent with the Cardiff Blues wishes and will do everything that I need to do in order to make amends... I remain fully focused and committed to Cardiff Blues and I hope they can accept my apology." he said in a public apology.
The candid climb down proved insufficient, however, and Blues management felt unable to retain the international.
"Gavin admitted himself that his behaviour was totally unacceptable," Blues CEO Richard Holland said in a club statement after terminating Henson's contract.
"We have a duty to our supporters and sponsors to protect the good name of Cardiff Blues... Gavin Henson is obviously a talented rugby player and it's unfortunate that his career at the Blues has ended this way."
Unfortunate, but perhaps not entirely unexpected.
A tabloid constant during his relationship with former partner, singer Charlotte Church, Henson's focus has drifted from rugby to show business in recent years.
He starred in a reality ballroom dancing show in Britain and last year 25 women battled it out in a reality show to win the heart of Henson "The Bachelor".
There remains, however, some sympathy for the former Young Player of the Year in rugby circles. Henson's former coach at Ospreys Lyn Jones said Blues management should be held to account over the events that led to Henson's sacking.
"Henson's not innocent -- he's made a mistake, like every other player," Jones told the BBC. "For Gavin to be hung out to dry like this is inexcusable."
Former Wales fly-half Jonathan Davies was more candid in his appraisal.
"The first thing is it's very sad, because Cardiff Blues gave (Henson) an opportunity and he's kind of messed it up again. He did have a lot to offer, but there's only one person to blame and sadly, that's Gavin himself and I'm sure he'll be bitterly disappointed when he looks back on his career."
Henson's in-flight drinking may have proved to be the final straw for a player who has used up second chances in the past. Still, though, he can feel aggrieved at the severity of the punishment, particularly in a fortnight where Northampton Saints flanker Calum Clark was hit with a 32-week penalty for breaking an opponents' arm and England hooker Dylan Hartley was banned for eight weeks for biting.
Some observers have suggested financial considerations may have played a part in the sacking and that it may have been an opportunity to offload Henson and his salary at a time when money is tight in Welsh rugby.
Wales's four regions have agreed to operate a £3.5 million salary cap for next season, to help combat wage inflation at a time of falling attendances.
The cap is less than the £4.2m imposed on English top flight clubs and a little more than half the 8 million euros that Top 14 clubs in France operate under.
While a number of questions remain over the sacking of Henson, the most prominent for the player himself is 'where next' for someone who promised so much, but largely failed to deliver.
"I think he can still play rugby but it's down to clubs if they want to gamble on him," former Welsh international Tom Shanklin said.
"But he is a big name who puts bums on seats."Reuters