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Dublin: 7 °C Friday 10 April, 2020

Last chance saloon? Gatland hands Henson start against Baa-Baas

Leinster’s Isa Nacewa and Munster’s Doug Howlett named in the Barbarians XV for Saturday’s game in Cardiff.

Image: David Jones/PA Archive/Press Association Images

CONTROVERSIAL WELSH RUGBY star Gavin Henson has been given an opportunity to play himself into contention for a place in the Welsh Rugby World Cup squad, with coach Warren Gatland naming him in the starting XV for Saturday’s friendly against the Barbarians in Cardiff.

The 29-year-old will start alongside Jonathan Davies in his preferred position of inside centre for the test game arranged to celebrate the 130th anniversary of the founding of the Welsh Rugby Union.

Henson, who has 31 caps to his name, was recalled to the Welsh squad at the beginning of May, bringing an end to his self-imposed international exile after he indicated that he would like to be considered for the trip to New Zealand in the autumn.

Last month, French Top 14 side Toulon decided not to offer the Welshman an extension to his short-term contract following his alleged involvement in a nightclub argument with team-mate Matt Henjak.

Gatland is willing to give him a chance to earn his stripes, however, saying yesterday that Henson “knows he just needs to let his rugby do the talking now.”

He tells us it’s fantastic to be back in this environment, that he has really missed it and he is loving his rugby at the moment, and that is a real positive for us.

Meanwhile, Barbarians head coach Dai Young has included two Irish-based players in his starting XV for Saturday’s game.

Leinster full-back and recently-crowned IRUPA Players’ Player of the Year Isa Nacewa has been named at full-back while Munster’s Doug Howlett starts on the wing.

Italian number eight Sergio Parisse will captain the side.

Wales: Stoddart; North, Davies, Henson, Brew; S Jones, Phillips; Bevington, Bennett, James; R Jones, Charteris; Lydiate, Warburton (c), Faletau.

Barbarians: Nacewa; Sackey, Rabeni, Bastareaud, Howlett; James, Tillous-Borde; Thomas, Bruno, Hayman;  Tekori, Tito; van Niekerk, Williams, Parisse (c).

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Niall Kelly

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