Rugby star Henson gets Toulon reprieve


TOULON, France May 3 – Troubled Wales back Gavin Henson was on Monday handed a reprieve by his French club Toulon, which had imposed a ban on him over an alleged drunken altercation with team-mates."President Mourad Boudjellal and Toulon’s sporting staff have decided to reintegrate Welsh centre Gavin Henson into the Toulon squad," the Top 14 club said in a statement.

Henson was suspended by Toulon for one week on April 18 following reports of the drunken set-to with several team-mates after he had criticised outside-half Jonny Wilkinson and captain Joe van Niekerk in the wake of a league victory over Toulouse.

The 29-year-old joined Toulon on a short-term deal in February from London side Saracens hoping to impress coach Philippe Saint-Andre and aiming to force his way into the Wales squad for this year’s World Cup.

Henson, who had not trained with his team-mates during his ban, told AFP before resuming training on Monday: "Yes, I’m staying.

"I learnt the news from the president Mourad Boudjellal and I am very happy."

Boudjellal for his part said that after taking soundings from the squad he had decided to let Henson stay.

"His future was the subject of long discussions but the overall outcome was that he should not be sacked," said Boudjellal, who has financed the club from the millions he has made from publishing comic books.

"From the moment that the squad and the coaching staff didn’t ask for the head of Gavin Henson, I decided that there was no reason to fire him.

"However, we were frank with him. We are not giving him a second chance, but a final chance.

"He does not have a safety net. He knows that the next incident, there will be no such reflection before he is shown the door. The dossier is closed and I hope it will not be reopened."

The centre, who will now be available to play against Montpellier in the Top 14 on Sunday, was also summoned to a meeting with the Welsh Rugby Union over the fracas.

Henson last played for Wales in the 2009 Six Nations before personal problems and a raft of injuries combined to see him take unpaid leave from his then-club, the Ospreys.

After appearing in two reality television shows, he signed with Saracens to end an 18-month period out of the game but made only four appearances and just one start in four months at the club.

Henson was initially hampered by a hamstring injury on his arrival in France, but made a try-scoring debut against Stade Francais and made his second start in another victory over Toulouse.

However, a ferocious row with among others Australian team-mate Matt Henjak at a restaurant after that match placed his future in doubt.

Boudjellal, though, revealed that it was after Henson had given him his side of the incident he had decided to open it up into a full enquiry rather than throw him out straight away.

"It was not as simple as on one side were the good guys and the other the bad one," said Boudjellal.

"Not all the wrongs are from his side.

"Gavin maybe said things that were out of order. In any case, he seems to truthfully regret them.

"Equally he also gave the impression that he really wanted to stay at Toulon and to battle for the club.

"We took into account that he is prepared to make numerous sacrifices to stay at Toulon, when he is being courted by numerous Anglo-Saxon clubs", he added.

Henson will now see out the season with Toulon but will have to wait to see whether a new deal is forthcoming, with the signing of Australia star Matt Giteau in addition to the established presence of Wilkinson leaving Saint-Andre uncertain whether he can accommodate the Welshman next season.