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Page last updated at 07:16 GMT, Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Gatland issues Henson challenge

Venue: Stade de France Date: Friday, 27 February Kick-off: 2000 GMT
Coverage: Live coverage on BBC Two and online, full commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales and online, live text commentary and score updates on BBC Sport website

Gavin Henson during night training session
Gavin Henson is now enjoying training with the squad after a series of injuries

Warren Gatland has told Wales star Gavin Henson to respond to off-the-field controversies and injury by "letting his rugby do the talking".

Henson and three other Welsh team-mates were "rebuked" for their conduct on a night out in Cardiff last week.

A calf injury also meant Henson missed Wales' two opening Six Nations wins but he is on the bench on Friday in France.

"The biggest thing is for Gavin to put his injuries and other issues behind him," said Wales coach Gatland.

"We want to see him on the field and he should let his rugby do the talking because that is the best thing for Wales and Gavin Henson."

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Henson captured the headlines for the wrong reasons last week when he and Wales colleagues Lee Byrne, Andy Powell, Jonathan Thomas, Mike Phillips and Rhys Thomas were seen in Cardiff city centre on a night out the day after Wales beat England at the Millennium Stadium.

The six were questioned about their "presence" in the Welsh capital while Henson, Powell, Rhys Thomas and Jonathan Thomas were "rebuked" after admitting to "varying degrees of regrettable conduct".

Henson's behaviour was singled out by eye-witnesses who claimed he was abusive and the 27-year-old, boyfriend of singer and TV presenter Charlotte Church, went as far as publicly apologising to "any member of the public he offended".

Now Henson - who has won every Six Nations game he has started - is likely to feature in his first international for 12 months.


He will be on the replacements' bench as Wales chase back-to-back Grand Slams, in Friday's showdown with France in Paris.

Speaking about last week's much-publicised night out, Wales coach Gatland added: "Gavin wasn't the only one involved and we have put that issue behind us.

"They are young men, they've put their hands up and said they made a mistake and apologised and as management we said that wasn't good enough.

"The whole issue has been in the public arena for a week now so we want to put that behind us and concentrate on rugby.

"Gavin trained really well last week and we wanted to get him in."

Roberts concedes shoulder worries

Henson is set to win his 29th Wales cap at the Stade de France, after replacing Andrew Bishop on the bench.

Gatland is known to want to test his favoured centre partnership of Henson and Jamie Roberts.

"We've always said Gavin is a quality player and it is plain to see the touches he does, the lines he runs and his ability in training," said Gatland.

"It wasn't a difficult decision to bring him in and hopefully he will get some time on Friday night.

"The combination of Roberts and Tom Shanklin has done well in the first two games and we felt at this stage it wasn't fair to make that change and it was a way of easing Gavin into the squad and giving him some time as a replacement."

Asked if the decision not to start Henson against France was due to his night out, Gatland replied: "The decision was nothing to do with the events of last week, nothing at all - that didn't even enter our minds."

Wales: Lee Byrne; Leigh Halfpenny, Tom Shanklin, Jamie Roberts, Shane Williams; Stephen Jones, Michael Phillips; Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees, Adam Jones, Ian Gough, Alun Wyn Jones, Ryan Jones (capt), Martyn Williams, Andy Powell.
Replacements: Huw Bennett, John Yapp, Luke Charteris, Dafydd Jones, Dwayne Peel, James Hook, Gavin Henson.

Referee: Mark Lawrence (South Africa)

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see also
Henson on Wales bench for France
23 Feb 09 |  Welsh
France hit by Beauxis injury blow
23 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Wales players' selection warning
20 Feb 09 |  Welsh
Rugby stars 'sorry' for night out
18 Feb 09 |  Wales
Henson's pub behaviour questioned
17 Feb 09 |  Wales
Peel earns late Welsh squad call
31 Jan 09 |  Welsh
Henson accepts ban from Ospreys
10 Oct 08 |  Ospreys
Wales' rugby fixtures
26 Jun 07 |  Welsh
Wales rugby results archive
15 Oct 03 |  Welsh
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales
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