Wales hand Gavin Henson dramatic return

WALES v BARBARIANS

Venue:
Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Date:
Saturday 4 June
Kick-off:
1430 BST
Coverage:
Live on BBC Two Wales, BBC Radio Wales & the Scrum V website.
Gavin Henson in Wales training
Gavin Henson trains with Wales ahead of the clash against the Barbarians

Gavin Henson will make his first Wales appearance for two years in the capped Test with the Barbarians in Cardiff.

Henson, who is picked at centre, has not played for Wales since the 2009 Six Nations Championship and is now unattached after leaving Toulon.

Fly-half Stephen Jones will join Gareth Thomas on 100 Wales caps.

Dragons number eight Toby Faletau and Ospreys prop Ryan Bevington will make their Wales debuts in a side captained by Sam Warburton.

"We have tried to get the right mixture of youth and experience in there and I'd like to think the likes of Ryan Bevington and Toby Faletau will look at this and think 'this is a good chance for me'," said Wales coach Warren Gatland.

Wales are without injured wing Shane Williams, who has not played since Wales' 19-13 win over Ireland during the Six Nations. His place goes to Dragons wing Aled Brew.

Mike Phillips has got the nod over Scarlets scrum-half Tavis Knoyle for the number nine jersey despite being relegated to third-choice in the Ospreys pecking order as the season drew to a close.

It will be Phillips's first start in any match since the Wales lost to France in the final game of this season's Six Nations Championship.

Henson, who has won 31 caps, last appeared for Wales against Ireland in March 2009.

Soon after he was sidelined by a foot injury, then took a self-imposed rest from the game that was extended for personal reasons.

On his return he left the Ospreys for Saracens in October, then moved on to Toulon in February.

However, Henson's short time in France was marred by a one-week ban for off-field indiscipline.

But Toulon cited financial and availability reasons during the 2011 World Cup period for deciding Henson would not remain with them, leading to the player being linked with a future at Bayonne and Stade Francais.

However, Gatland has opted to give Henson a chance to stake a World Cup claim and says the player has settled in well on his return to the national squad.

"It's an opportunity for players like Gavin to do his talking on the rugby pitch," said Gatland.

"We have Andrew Bishop, Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies and now Scott Williams [at centre], but we need depth and hopefully Gavin does well and he puts some pressure on the established guys.

"He tells us it's fantastic to be back in this environment, that he has really missed it and is loving his rugby at the moment and that's a real positive for us, he knows he just needs to let his rugby do the talking now."

Henson is picked at inside centre in a midfield partnership with Davies of the Scarlets.

Davies has established himself as a player with big potential and ended this season's Six Nations as the regular midfield partner to Jamie Roberts, the 2009 British and Irish Lions man of the series.

Cardiff Blues centre Roberts is one of a host of front-line players who do not feature in the Wales squad for the one-off Test against the Barbarians, as Gatland assesses his wider options ahead of September's World Cup in New Zealand.

There are only seven survivors from Wales's 28-9 defeat to France in Paris in March - Davies, George North, Phillips, Paul James, Dan Lydiate, Warburton and Ryan Jones.

With Shane Williams out, North and Morgan Stoddart of the Scarlets join Brew in the back-three.

In the back-row, Gatland has opted for Faletau at number eight with his Dragons colleague Lydiate name as flanker with Warburton, while at lock Jones is paired with Luke Charteris with Alun Wyn Jones named on the bench.

Jones and Charteris pack down behind an all Ospreys front row of Bevington, Huw Bennett and James.

As well as Faletau and Bevington there are three other uncapped players selected on the bench - Dragons hooker Lloyd Burns, Blues prop Scott Andrews and Scarlets centre Scott Williams.

On Jones winning his 100th cap Gatland said: "Stephen has reached a fantastic milestone and he deserves all the plaudits he will get.

"But he is so important to us and will continue to be so in the coming months that there is also a sense that it is great for us to get his 100th cap out of the way.

"He still has so much more to give and it is a testament to him that he is still hungry.

"He is not limping towards a century of caps with a sense of relief, but bursting through the landmark, relishing the Baa-Baas game, but then intent on focussing on the World Cup and the matches ahead."

Wales go on to face England, twice, and Argentina during August before heading to New Zealand where they face South Africa, Fiji, Samoa and Namibia at the pool stage.

The Barbarians team is due to be announced on Thursday.

Wales: Morgan Stoddard (Scarlets); George North (Scarlets), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Gavin Henson (Unattached), Aled Brew (Newport Gwent Dragons); Stephen Jones (Scarlets), Michael Phillips (Ospreys); Ryan Bevington (Ospreys), Huw Bennett (Ospreys), Paul James (Ospreys), Ryan Jones (Ospreys), Luke Charteris (Newport Gwent Dragons), Danny Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt), Toby Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).

Replacements: Lloyd Burns (Newport Gwent Dragons), Scott Andrews (Cardiff Blues), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Josh Turnbull (Scarlets), Tavis Knoyle (Scarlets), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Scott Williams (Scarlets).

Barbarians squad:

Forwards: S Bruno (Toulon), Q Geldenhuys (Aironi), L Ghiraldini (Benetton Treviso), C Hayman (Toulon), D Kubriashvili (Toulon), E Lund (Biarritz), S Parisse (Stade Francais), S Perugini (Aironi), G Smith (Toulon), I Tekori (Castres Olympique), I Thomas (Scarlets), P Tito (Cardiff Blues), J van Niekerk (Toulon), M Williams (Cardiff Blues).

Backs: B Baby (Clermont Auvergne), M Bastareaud (Stade Francais), D Howlett (Munster), B James (Clermont Auvergne), N Jeanjean (Brive), W Mason (Toulon), F Michalak (Toulouse), R Pienaar (Ulster), S Rabini (La Rochelle), P Sackey (Toulon), S Tillous-Borde (Castres Olympique), T Visser (Edinburgh).

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland).

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