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Page last updated at 17:32 GMT, Wednesday, 8 September 2010 18:32 UK

Gavin Henson back in Wales rugby shirt

Gavin Henson has not played for Wales since March 2009
Gavin Henson has not played for Wales since March 2009

Welsh rugby players have questioned why exiled centre Gavin Henson has been used to promote Wales' new kit.

The Welsh Rugby Union uses a picture of Henson in the new kit in their campaign, which includes a 100ft poster draped over the Millennium Stadium.

"It's a bit strange," admits prop Adam Jones because Henson has not represented Wales for 18 months.

"So why Gavin Henson," replied WRU chief Roger Lewis. "Gavin is dreaming about putting this jersey back on."

The Ospreys star remains on indefinite unpaid leave from rugby it is not clear when or whether Henson will return.

Jamie Roberts insists Welsh rugby 'not just about Gavin Henson'

Henson won the last of his 31 Wales caps against Ireland in the 2009 RBS Six Nations while his last Ospreys appearance before his rugby sabbatical was in an EDF Energy Cup semi-final defeat by Gloucester in March 2009.

The double Grand Slam-winner, a British and Irish Lions tourist to New Zealand in 2005, suffered an ankle injury in that game which meant he missed a second Lions tour when they visited world champions South Africa.

Henson has been unveiled as a contestant on the BBC television show Strictly Come Dancing while he has also just completed another reality show 71 Degrees North.

But the 28-year-old insists he still has ambition of starring for Wales in the Rugby World Cup in the autumn of 2011.

And WRU proved that Henson remains very much in Wales' mind by using the player to front Wednesday's Wales team kit launch.

But the WRU's choice to use Henson despite his continued unpaid leave of absence from rugby raised eyebrows, even among his old Welsh team-mates.

His Wales centre partner Jamie Roberts, the Lions' man-of-the-series in South Africa, questioned on his Twitter page: "Is this an insult to current Welsh international players... wonder what the Welsh public will think?!"

Roberts has since deleted his Twitter post and stated: "Just to note, I asked a question, rather than making a statement on the matter.

"Just to see the response...some interesting feedback."

Henson's Ospreys team-mate Shane Williams also admitted: "It is a little bit strange for us really having not seeing a lot of Gav, especially on the rugby field and training paddocks."

Lions prop Adam Jones questioned the decision to use Henson bearing in mind the other rugby stars in Wales coach Warren Gatland's squad.

"There are players here like Shane and Jamie who are probably just as famous," Jones told BBC Sport Wales.

"But it's a pretty good sign he is going to come back to rugby but for who we don't know."

And wing Williams joked: "It is good to have him back - even if it is in poster form.

"And it is nice to see he has not given up the ghost of playing for Wales."

The WRU says the marketing campaign includes 'stars of past and present' - and Gatland has stated he does not want Henson to become one of the former.

And WRU group chief executive Roger Lewis has defended the choice of Henson, arguably Welsh rugby's most universally famous star, in their latest marketing campaign.

"So why Gavin Henson?" said Lewis. "Everyone wants to wear this jersey, Gavin certainly wants to wear this jersey.

"This jersey is the stuff of dreams and Gavin is dreaming about putting this jersey back on one day.

"You may have noticed he hasn't got his boots on - we're all looking forward for Gavin to put his boots back on and play rugby once again.

His regional boss Scott Johnson, the Ospreys director of coaching, said on Tuesday that he remains "still in the dark" over any plans Henson has to return.

Shane Williams insists Welsh rugby cannot wait for Gavin Henson to return

This week the player indicated that he wanted to return to playing, saying: "Hopefully I can get back into rugby, do well and get into the [Wales] World Cup squad."

Henson, also underlined what it means to him to be involved with Wales: "When the Welsh Rugby Union asked me to be one of the first to put on the new kit to help with their marketing campaign I had no hesitation.

"As a passionate Welshman I have always felt a great sense of pride whenever I have had the privilege of being able to wear the national jersey and this occasion was no different."

But Henson's inclusion in the Strictly line-up indicates that he will not be seen back on a rugby field in the immediate future - unless he proves to be a very poor dancer and is voted off the television show in the first few weeks.

Although he is on unpaid leave, Henson remains contracted to the Ospreys for another year although he has been linked with a move to the Aviva Premiership, with Wasps the English club most strongly rumoured to be interested in the player.



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see also
Henson targeting World Cup place
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Strictly show line-up is revealed
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Henson 'risked life' filming show
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Gatland harbours Henson cup hope
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Johnson's door 'open to Henson'
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Gavin Henson's value to Wales
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Robert Jones doubts Henson return
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Gatland hopeful of Henson return
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Charlotte and Gavin separate
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Henson quashes retirement rumours
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Henson 'ready' for rugby return
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BBC Radio Wales' The Back Page
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Wales' rugby fixtures
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Wales rugby results archive
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Coming up next on Scrum V...
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BBC Sport Wales coverage
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FROM OTHER SPORT SITES
Yahoo! UK and Ireland Eurosport Wales kit model Henson attracts ridicule - 2 hrs ago
The Scotsman Gavin Henson under fire as new Wales poster boy - 9 hrs ago
The Independent Henson poster 'laughable' say Welsh - 17 hrs ago
JOE.ie Welsh Rugby Union criticised over Henson poster - 20 hrs ago
AOL UK Henson poster 'laughable' - 23 hrs ago


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