Gavin Henson: My Grand Slam Year

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  1. Gavin Henson
  2. Gavin Henson: 'Wales are due another Grand Slam and I want to be part of it'
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  5. Rugby union: Henson's honesty better than a gouge from rugby's gargoyles | Football | The Guardian

Gavin Henson

Later that year he was forced to apologise to his Wales team-mates over revelations he made in his book 'My Grand Slam Year', and shortly after he was banned for seven weeks for elbowing Leicester prop Alex Moreno. Henson rediscovered his best form to be a key figure in Wales' Six Nations clean sweep, which came just a few months after an incident on a train in December that saw him charged with disorderly conduct, although the case was later dropped.

But with the rugby world seemingly his for the taking, a mixture of injuries followed by a self-imposed exile from the game between March and October saw his star fade. Henson is also well known outside of rugby after a long-term relationship with singer Charlotte Church, in which they had two children together. They split two years ago. The Welshman says he has no fears about being "chucked straight in the deep end".

Nor is he worried about being sledged by opponents. What is clear is he's finally ready to get started. By Alex Spink. Get the biggest daily news stories by email Subscribe We will use your email address only for the purpose of sending you newsletters. Please see our Privacy Notice for details of your data protection rights.

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Gavin Henson: 'Wales are due another Grand Slam and I want to be part of it'

By the time I got to the Millennium Stadium I felt ready to take on the world. But I was determined not to let that happen to me. I just wanted to treat it as another game. I prefer to be a bit more controlled and stay relaxed. Jason Robinson had thrown the ball into midfield, we chased up in a line and I got in a good hit on Cueto. That allowed me to settle.

Suddenly I was able to concentrate harder and felt really into the game. I felt good about myself physically — strong. Then, Mathew Tait cut back inside towards me and I dumped him, although he managed to keep hold of the ball. It was his first touch in international rugby and I was aware of the crowd reacting to my tackle which gave me a big lift. Now, I felt settled and after another good tackle on Julian White I was flying.

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This is going to be okay, I thought. Stephen Jones missed an early penalty, but within 10 minutes or so we scored a try through Shane Williams. I had a hand in the build-up but the crucial pass was the one delivered by Michael Owen, a lovely floated one that opened up enough space for Shane to dart over in the left corner. Nothing tight or anxious, just a nice flowing game, and the truth is that we should have got at least one more try in that opening 15 minutes or so. We had our chances. Charlie Hodgson then struck a penalty before I put in another big tackle on Tait which got the crowd excited and led to all kinds of questions after the match.

Mathew was an year-old making his debut for England as a consequence of all those injury problems. Obviously, the thinking was that as they knew each other well the nerves might not feel as acute for Mathew as they might have been if he was next to a stranger. I could see that Tait was a quality player with quick feet and good hands. I was still used to being described as a youngster myself and yet I had turned 23 at the start of that week.

Here was a kid five years younger than me. It creates an extra little competitive edge in my mind. Or at least try to put them in their place. We had been defending well and I was feeling confident when Tait tried to run straight at me.

Diligence pays dividends

It meant I had to make a head-on tackle which is the type I have always enjoyed, right through from my earliest days as a kid playing age-group rugby. I managed to stop him and pick him up at the same time. Suddenly, his momentum was gone and it was me moving forward with him horizontal in my arms.

It had nothing to do with the fact that he was 18 and making his debut. It was just that he was running straight at me and I was the one who had to stop him. I liked the surge of adrenalin it gave me because this was a player we had talked about before the match as a possible danger man.

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Mathew had been bragged up in the Zurich Premiership and is quite a physical player himself. I had seen one try he had scored for Newcastle against Sale where he had bumped off Jason Robinson so he obviously had strength to go along with his general sharpness and good feet. So we did our homework on him and it paid off. In the days afterwards there would be T-shirts printed with the picture of me holding Mathew in mid-air with a few mildly insulting captions on them.

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In fact, later in the game he made a tackle on me that denied us a try. I had made a break on the outside of Mathew and thought I had got away from him. But just as I tried to accelerate away he stretched out and got a hand on my jersey to pull me down.

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  • That was careless. We increased our lead to 8—3 at half-time thanks to a penalty from Stephen Jones. A lot of people might view me as an individualist, a loner, and in many ways I suppose I am. But what I most want from playing for Wales is to be part of a successful team. It always has been for me. I want to stand out but I want people to look at me as someone who catches the eye within a winning team. The nice thing about having Steve take all the short and medium-range kicks is that I get to have a breather like everyone else.

    With Alfie off the field, and both sides down to 14 men, I was moved from inside centre to cover for his loss at full-back. I felt perfectly comfortable with that. I like to kick the ball out of hand because I know I can send it a long way — further than most players. When I managed to put England right back on their heels with two big kicks to touch then I started to feel really confident about the way things were going. Sitting in the dressing room at the break, I felt a bit disappointed and so did most of the other boys. We promised ourselves that we would keep the ball in hand and run England around more in the second-half to try and stretch them and tire out their forwards.

    Rugby union: Henson's honesty better than a gouge from rugby's gargoyles | Football | The Guardian

    I think the occasion got to us and the match became quite scrappy. Hodgson kicked a penalty to make it 8—6 and then with the game going into the final stages he slotted over another and suddenly we found ourselves 9—8 down. I have to admit a little bit of panic set in. Everyone became quite nervous, there were too many mistakes being made, and there was also the added factor of worrying about the clock. Back in the autumn against New Zealand there had been a mix-up over exactly how long was left in the game.

    The clock was being halted every time for stoppages so that while we all felt there was some injury time left to play, the referee blew up when the exact 40 minutes was up.

    Gavin Henson superb performance v England 2005