Gavin Henson in line to play for Wales in June

Gavin Henson in action on his Toulon debut
Henson has set his sights on playing for Wales in the World Cup

Gavin Henson is "very likely" to play for Wales in their pre-World Cup matches, according to assistant coach Rob Howley.

Henson, 29, made a try-scoring debut for French club Toulon on Saturday as he played his first game since January.

"We're watching Gavin very closely and he'll certainly come into the mix in our Rugby World Cup preparation," Howley told BBC Wales' Scrum V Radio.

"[We want] to give him an opportunity because he's spent a long time out."

Henson gave Wales coach Warren Gatland a timely reminder of his ability with an accomplished display for Toulon in their 38-10 home victory over Stade Francais in France's premier league competition, the Top 14.

Having created a first-half try for Gabirieli Lovobalavu with a sublime midfield break, Henson capped what he described as a "dream" debut by scoring his side's fourth and final try 13 minutes from time.

He went on to play the full 80 minutes, in his favoured position of inside centre, and Howley said the performance has already put him in the frame to play in Wales' first warm-up game against the Barbarians in Cardiff on Saturday, 4 June.

"I watched him play on Saturday against Stade Francais," former Wales and Lions scrum-half Howley added.

"He played particularly well. He looks very fit. We all know Gavin's strengths, he's a very accomplished player, very skilful and he's very confident in his own rugby ability.

"His ability to play 12 or 13, with a kick, run, pass option, he is a very confident rugby player. I think that his game-time is going to be monitored between now and the end of the season."

After a self-imposed 18-month rugby exile because of injury and personal problems, Henson returned to the rugby field in December 2010 after negotiating his release from his Ospreys contract to join Saracens.

Four appearances later, he made a surprise move to the south of France to join Toulon on a five-month deal. But a calf injury suffered playing for Sarries had delayed his debut until last Saturday.

Henson, who won the last of his 31 international caps against Ireland in March 2009, has a further three league games to prove himself, and the possibility of another three if Toulon reach and progress through the end-of-season play-off matches.

Howley said Henson, who has never played at the World Cup, looked fully-fit and had rediscovered his love for the game during his Toulon bow.

And the Wales management, he said, believe June's game against the Barbarians, followed by friendlies against England (6 and 13 August) and Argentina (20 August) will give the centre an invaluable opportunity to reacquaint himself with the demands of the international game.

"While there is an intensity in the Top 14, international rugby has another intensity on top," Howley said.

"But having watched him on Saturday, he looks fit, he looks very enthusiastic, his work-rate off the ball was good, which was a very pleasing aspect of his game."

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