Wales names Henson in World Cup squad

by Staff Writer

Gavin Henson has been named in Wales' preliminary Rugby World Cup squad after returning from a two-year absence in the 31-28 last-gasp defeat by the Barbarians.

After recently parting company with Toulon, Henson has been selected among Warren Gatland's 45-man party following his first appearance for Wales since March 2009.

The 29-year-old has not played for the Dragons since facing Ireland two years ago.

Henson put in a solid performance on Saturday at the Millennium Stadium and provided a pinpoint pass to George North for the game's opening try, before being replaced by Scott Williams after 61 minutes.

And despite making just four starts since returning from his self-imposed exile ahead of the clash, two apiece for Saracens and Toulon, Henson has been rewarded with a place in the Welsh squad.

Gatland said: "Gavin looked a bit rusty with a few kicks but he showed a couple of nice touches.

"He offered depth and provided a lovely pass for North's try. These are the qualities we know he's got.

"We want to work with him over the next few months, let him play and see what shape we can get him in."

All of the 22 who faced the Baa-Baas have been retained including all five new caps and a further three uncapped players.

Gareth Delve, who is playing Super Rugby with the Melbourne Rebels, is also included, as is Sale-bound Andy Powell.

"The Rebels have not been going so well but he's had plenty of rugby as vice-captain and had plenty of good press," Gatland said.

"He's been involved with us in the past and now has experience in the southern hemisphere, so he is acclimatised to the conditions down there and gives us another option."

Stephen Jones, notching his 100th cap in the defeat to the Baa-Baas, is one of four specialist fly-halves selected alongside James Hook, Rhys Priestland and uncapped Jason Tovey, selected ahead of Dan Biggar and Nicky Robinson.

Gatland is bitterly disappointed following the loss but insists there is plenty to be positive about looking ahead to the World Cup in September.

They took the lead at the Millennium Stadium through George North, but trailed 19-14 at the interval following Barbarian tries from Iosefa Tekori, Isa Nacewa and Sergio Parisse either side of a Morgan Stoddart touchdown.

But Wales looked destined for a hard-fought victory, after Mike Phillips and Aled Brew crashed over before it was all to change again, as Mathieu Bastareaud and Isa Nacewa pounced for quick-fire tries in the closing stages to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat.

"We went from being elated at nine points up and only a few minutes to go to being devastated," Gatland added.

"We needed to be smart and close out the game, but perhaps we got a bit carried away with the occasion and a bit of inexperience at forcing things that we didn't need to do.

"We need to learn from that but there were still a lot of positives. We were under pressure in the first half but kept the ball well and in the end were looking comfortable. The players that came off the bench made an impact but we lacked a bit of game management in the end."

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