Gavin Henson comfortable in Wales squad, says Gatland

Warren Gatland keeps a close eye on Gavin Henson during training this week
Warren Gatland keeps a close eye on Gavin Henson during training this week

Warren Gatland insists Gavin Henson has "settled in well" with his Wales team-mates and is "motivated" to make the World Cup squad.

Henson, 29, hopes to represent his country for the first time in two years on Saturday against the Barbarians in Wales's first World Cup warm-up.

Wales coach Gatland: "Everyone would love to say there is some controversy about Gavin being in the squad.

"And [to say] some players are unsettled, but I haven't witnessed it."

Henson has appeared in just a handful of competitive games since he returned from a 20-month rugby sabitical in December to play for Saracens.

Three games later, he asked for his contract with the London club to be terminated, freeing him to join French giants Toulon on a five-month contract.

But his desire to find some stability in the south of France were scuppered at the end of the season when Toulon decided against offering a deal to stay.

Henson, though, winner is expected to win his 32nd Wales cap when Gatland's side host the Barbarians at the Millennium Stadium, a match arranged to celebrate the 130th anniversary of the Welsh Rugby Union.

The Cardiff Test is the first of Wales's four warm-up matches ahead of their World Cup opener to defending champions South Africa in New Zealand on 11 September.

Gatland insists the "ball is in Henson's court" if Henson wants to make the World Cup squad alongside midfield rivals Jamie Roberts, James Hook, Jonathan Davies and Andrew Bishop.

And the Wales coach says there is no animosity from the other members of the Welsh squad towards Henson, who has won an international recall with such limited recent game-time.

"I think they want him to settle in and play," Gatland told BBC Wales Scrum V show.

"He has settled in well and trained hard. He seems very motivated to be part of the World Cup squad and the players seem great.

"It is about playing rugby, there are no personalities involved here.

"There was a lot of criticism about picking him. If we picked him it was the headline, if we didn't pick him that would have been the deadline so we were in a no-win situation.

"He is a player that hasn't played for a few years and we felt that if he's fit and playing well, we know he is good enough - and he gets an opportunity against the Barbarians."

Henson's call-up into Wales squad is his first regular involvement with his international team-mates since the final game of the 2009 Six Nations.

He said he rejected the possibility of staying Toulon in order to fulfil his ambition of playing in the World Cup for the first time.

"The ball is in his court," said Gatland.

"We felt it was a good opportunity and we weren't taking too much of a risk calling Gavin in to see where he is at and giving him this chance to prove himself."

Gatland will be without injured stars Bradley Davies, Jamie Roberts, Leigh Halfpenny and Gethin Jenkins. James Hook, who is getting married on the day of the match, is another absentee.

But Gatland has also opted to rest some of his regulars players such as Lee Byrne, Adam Jones, Jonathan Thomas and captain Matthew Rees.

Wales's record-try-scorer Shane Williams is also out as the Ospreys wing has not recovered since injuring his knee in Wales' Six Nations win over Ireland in March.

"Shane hasn't had a lot of rugby so we will be monitoring him," added Gatland.

"Whether it is making sure we don't risk someone like Shane, that is a decision that is going to made later in week."

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