Top 14 - Henson to leave Toulon

Tue, 24 May 15:08:00 2011

Gavin Henson will not be offered a new contract with Toulon next season, team manager Tom Whitford has confirmed.

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Club president Mourad Boudjellal had hinted in a newspaper that 'team spirit' was behind the decision to part with the Wales centre, but Whitford said that financial concerns and Henson's availability were factors behind the decision.

Speaking to BBC Sport Wales, Whitford said: "The problem is we haven't qualified for Europe this season, which means that our budget is going to be restricted which means then we're slightly limited in our salary budget - that's one reason.

"The second reason is we hope from his point of view he's going to be picked for the World Cup to play for Wales, which means we're going to lose a player for a three-four month period.

"So we'd rather not take that risk. Obviously there was an incident - and he wasn't the only one at fault - let's be honest about this - it wasn't just his fault.

"Having taken everything into account we've come to a decision whereby we're going to release Gavin and we're going to wish him very well in the future."

Henson, 29, who joined the Top 14 club in February, recently served a one-week suspension for a nightclub brawl with team-mates and had been waiting to discover whether he would be welcome back next term.

Boudjellal told the French newspaper Var-Matin: "We do not want to blame anyone, but for next season we hope that team spirit is a priority."

Henson joined Toulon for an initial five months to cover for the injured Clement Marienval, hoping to convince head coach Philippe Saint-Andre to give him a new two-year deal as well as revive his Wales career ahead of the World Cup.

Though he has had some success with the latter part of that equation, having been named in the Wales squad to face the Barbarians next week, it appears his off-field behaviour has cost him any chance of a long-term deal at Toulon.

Henson last played for his country in the 2009 RBS 6 Nations before a combination of personal problems and injuries prompted him to take unpaid leave from the Ospreys.

After some reality television appearances, he signed with Saracens to end an 18-month period out of the game but made only four appearances and just one start in four months at the club.

Henson was initially hampered by a hamstring injury on his arrival in France, but made a try-scoring debut against Stade Francais and made his second start in another victory over Toulouse.

The reported decision not to keep Henson follows hot on the heels of the high-profile signing of former rugby league star Willie Mason, who is expected to play at centre.

PA Sport

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