Gavin Henson: Dragons back retains hope of Wales recall at 35

Gavin Henson
Gavin Henson has signed a two-year contract with Dragons

Gavin Henson still hopes to play for Wales despite being out of the national side since 2011.

After spending six seasons in English club rugby, 35-year-old Henson has retuned to Wales by joining Dragons.

And he feels playing for the Newport-based region will provide the platform to potentially add to his 33 caps.

"There's a lot of hard work I need to do and a lot of special performances needed to be considered for that, but the ambition is still there." he said.

Henson last played for Wales in a warm-up match against England shortly before the 2011 World Cup. A wrist injury scuppered his hopes of being selected for the tournament and he has not been close to an international call-up since.

His arrival at Dragons comes after spending two seasons with Bristol, helping them to win the Championship title in 2015-16.

They were relegated after just one season in the Premiership, winning just three of their 22 games.

Henson has had a colourful - and, at times, controversial - career that has seen the Pencoed-born playmaker scale heights and endure some miserable lows.

Injuries and off-field misbehaviour have hampered his career but Dragons feel he has something to offer in his twilight years.

"I've always tried to come back to Wales but it didn't really happen," said Henson, who started his regional career with Ospreys.

"Obviously I'm grateful the Dragons have given me this chance now and hopefully I can finish off on a high.

"It's great to be back in Wales. I just want to repay the faith the Dragons have put in me. Hopefully we'll have a good season."

New Dragons coach Bernard Jackman
Bernard Jackman was forwards coach with Grenoble before taking over as head coach in 2016

Dragons, who were taken over the Welsh Rugby Union on 1 July and removed "Newport Gwent" from their name, have appointed Bernard Jackman as their new coach as they attempt to shed the reputation of being the weakest of the four Welsh regions.

Under Kinsgley Jones last season, they finished second bottom of the Pro12 and endured a 12-game losing streak in all competitions.

Jackman arrives after one season in charge of Top 14 side Grenoble, and Henson has been impressed with what he has seen from the former Ireland hooker on the training ground.

"He seems to be a class act. We're all enjoying his training regime and how he wants to play the game," he said.

"We want to be the best Welsh region. We've got the quality of players from what I've seen, and the fitness levels are great.

"So that will be one of our goals but we haven't sat down and discussed this yet. We'll take one game at a time and see what happens."

As well as playing a starring role for Wales in their 2005 and 2008 Grand Slam triumphs, Henson was included in the 2005 British and Irish Lions squad that toured New Zealand.

That series, under former England coach Sir Clive Woodward, ended in a 3-0 whitewash and Henson was rebuked for his outspoken criticism of the management strategy and overbearing influence of media advisor Alastair Campbell.

Twelve years on, Henson was impressed how the Lions of 2017 "worked out" the All Blacks to secure a drawn series that ended with a 15-15 stalemate in the deciding Test.

"It's a pity they didn't win in the end. I felt they were the stronger team," he added.

"They got better every week and if there was another Test, they would've beaten them I felt.

"It was disappointing in 2005. I was looking at some old footage the other day and it wasn't great.

"This one was much better and quite nice how it finished in the end I suppose."

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