Wales 'missed' Gavin Henson says coach Rob Howley

Gavin Henson has not played for Wales since March 2009
Gavin Henson has not played for Wales since March 2009

Wales attack coach Rob Howley believes Gavin Henson will add much-needed competition at centre after his recall to the national squad.

The 29-year-old Toulon player won the last of his 31 caps in March 2009 but has been named in Wales' 26-man squad to play the Barbarians on 4 June.

"He's a quality player, we've missed him in our environment," Howley said.

"It's good to see Gavin back in the fold and we're giving him a chance to see how he shows up."

Henson has won two Grand Slams with Wales and played for the 2005 British and Irish Lions in New Zealand, but has never played for his country at a World Cup.

"We need competition for places and when you look at the centre, particularly in the past 12 months, we've lost Tom Shanklin," Howley added.

"We need to create that competition for the likes of Jon Davies, for Jamie Roberts and it's good to see Scott Williams being involved.

"His performance at the Scarlets has been exceptional over the last three or four months.

"He's taken his opportunities because Jon was out injured, so the message is - particularly with Scott coming through - give youngsters a chance and there's a lot of quality."

The early retirement through injury of Shanklin, Henson's centre partner for those 2005 and 2008 Grand Slams and a fellow Lions tourist to New Zealand, has curtailed Wales' midfield options.

While Roberts and Davies showed a blossoming centre partnership during the Six Nations, Henson would certainly add a different option at 12 as well as covering full-back and fly-half.

Whatever the off-field problems Henson has experienced, Howley says that he has not blotted his copybook with Wales.

"We've never had a problem in the national team with Gavin, I think the players will look foward to playing with Gavin if he's selected and I'm sure he's missed that opportunity to wear that Wales jersey," Howley said.

"I spoke to him, he's obviously delighted and enthused by the opportunity which he's got, and I'm sure he'll grasp that opportunity with both hands."

Wales coach Warren Gatland has opted to rest several of his senior players for the Barbarians game, picking five uncapped players including Scarlets centre Williams and Dragons back-row Toby Faletau.

But Howley says that he will want even an experimental Wales side to put in a winning performance against the invitational Baa-Baas.

"It's about winning. I think that it's the 130th year celebrating Welsh rugby, the Welsh Rugby Union made this game a cap game and that goes down on the record," Howley said.

"So when you put that national jersey on and it's a cap game you want to win the game."

After the game against the Barbarians, Wales play back-to-back Tests with England before taking on Argentina in August.

That will be the last chance for players to book their place for next September's World Cup in New Zealand.

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