Oval Talk

Wales’ publicity stunt will backfire

Oval Talk

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When an organisation is in need of selling
tickets for an event and is struggling to drum up interest, the solution can be
to pull off a publicity stunt.

Perhaps an advertising campaign, or a
raffle with the winner receiving a romantic weekend for two in Paris. Or better
still, persuade a celebrity to come along for the day - that is sure to draw in
the crowds.

And that is exactly what the WRU have done
for next month's match with the Barbarians. Ticket sales have been pathetic at
best so Wales played their trump card and brought Gavin Henson to the stage.

It is not the first time Henson has been
used as a publicity stunt. Who can forget him being used as the poster boy to
promote Wales' new jersey last summer?

When Warren Gatland was asked if Henson had
been called up to the Wales squad solely because of his ability to sell tickets,
all he could say was: "That's a good question, isn't it?"

Why else would Henson have been picked
having started only two matches in two years? If he has been picked for his
performances on the rugby field then it is a damning indictment of the state
Welsh rugby is in at the moment.

The decision to select Henson was made a
while back because the WRU refused the Barbarians permission to call up the
Toulon star three weeks ago. Since then, because of Toulon's failure to make
the Top 14 play-offs and Henson's one-week suspension, he has not even graced a
rugby field for a month.

Oval Talk does not blame Henson for being
selected - rather the blame lies with the WRU. Why have they not found a
replacement for Henson yet? It has been over two years since Henson last wore
the red jersey.

The reality is nobody has stepped up to
Henson's mantle. During Wales' Six Nations Grand Slam success in 2008 the team
conceded two tries and Henson was the marshal of Wales' formidable defence.

Since then Wales have a winning ratio of
one in four and a defence which has more holes in it than a dirty old
dishcloth. In that respect it is understandable why Gatland would give Henson
every chance to be fit for the World Cup.

But what about the players who have shed
blood and tears to represent their country? Andrew Bishop and Bradley Davies
for instance; they will surely be disgruntled to say the least to see Henson
waltz back into the team.

And the decision to recall Henson makes a
mockery of the WRU's home-based policy. Time after time we have heard how
people who play for one of the Welsh regions would gain preference over players
who ply their trade in another country. The former Ospreys man has been
avoiding Wales for the last 18 months!

Henson's call-up might make commercial
sense, but for rugby reasons it is a risk. The players reacted angrily to last
summer's jersey publicity stunt - how will they react to the latest one when Henson
is actually in the squad?

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