Tom Shanklin: Former Wales centre says Gavin Henson 'still has much to offer'

Tom Shanklin and Gavin Henson
Tom Shanklin and Gavin Henson training with Wales

Wales' double Grand Slam winner Gavin Henson still has much to offer as he prepares to return to the Pro12, says former team-mate Tom Shanklin.

The 35-year-old is to join Newport Gwent Dragons from Bristol in the summer on a two-year contract.

Shanklin added that Henson has also matured off the field.

"He is not the type of player who relies on speed. He has a real good feel for the game," Shanklin told BBC Radio Wales Sport.

"He has grown up a lot and looks after himself a lot better off the field," he added.

"He is 35 years old but he has had a lot of time out of the game and his body is still in good condition.

"I still think he has a lot to offer and it is great to get him back in Welsh rugby."

'He could be a spark'

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Shanklin said Henson will help to develop some of the Dragons' younger talent, though he could be prone to more bumps and bruises.

"Injury-wise, it's always a bit of a risk when you sign them later in life," Shanklin added. "I hope he can stay injury free for the rest of the season.

"He could be the spark they are looking to launch the outside backs like Ashton Hewitt and Tyler Morgan.

"Having a player like Gavin around creates space out wide just because he has a great skill set.

"Because he is so tanned, so pristine and comes off the pitch looking immaculate, he is targeted in the game.

"When people try to target him, he has such subtle skills he is able to ship the ball on and create space wide for other people."

Henson won the last of his 33 Wales caps against England in 2011 and also played one Test for the British and Irish Lions in 2005.

After starting his regional career with the Ospreys, Henson has spent time with Saracens, Toulon, Cardiff Blues, London Welsh and Bath before joining Bristol in 2015.

A real coup for the region

Gavin Henson and Tom Shanklin
Gavin Henson played during Wales' Six Nations Grand Slams in 2005 and 2008

Dragons chief executive Stuart Davies says he expects Henson to make a big impact on and off the field.

"It is a coup, a huge signing for us, not least within the context of what we need in the squad," he told BBC Radio Wales Sport.

"On the field, looking ahead, we want the right blend of experience and winning mentality and Gavin brings that experience and is [also] a huge name in the game of rugby.

"To get him back to Wales and getting him to the Dragons, it is huge moment for us.

"We have tremendous fans who have not had a lot to cheer of late, so having someone of Gavin's calibre and all that he offers, I hope that is a big fillip for everyone and whets the appetite for what lies ahead."

Davies does not feel Henson represents a gamble, despite previous question marks over his lifestyle away from the rugby paddock.

"It is not a gamble at all. Everything I've heard from Gavin is very positive," Davies said.

"He can ignite this backline of ours. He is a fantastic pro and with the experience he has got, I see no lifestyle issues, it is all positive from our side.

"We are confident his lifestyle issues are behind him. Our reports are that he handles himself well on and off the pitch."

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