Gavin Lloyd Henson (born February 1, 1982 in Bridgend) is a Welsh rugby union player who plays for the Ospreys regional side in the Celtic League and Heineken Cup, and the national team. He attracted much media attention in the 2004-2005 rugby season, in which he was part of a Wales team which achieved a long-sought Grand Slam in the Six Nations Championship. He has also played for the British and Irish Lions, touring in 2005 to New Zealand.
Henson has played in a variety of positions including fly-half, fullback and inside centre. He usually plays on the Welsh team as inside centre. His relationship with girlfriend Charlotte Church is well covered by the media in the United Kingdom. He appears in adverts for Nike Pro and for one of the Wales rugby sponsors, Brains brewery.
Gavin Henson's father, Alan Henson, captained Heol-y-Cyw and Maesteg, so rugby was in the family. Gavin played rugby for his school, Brynteg Comprehensive, in Bridgend, South Wales. Despite his Bridgend origins, he joined Swansea RFC at the age of 18. He was promptly the International Rugby Board's "Young Player Of The Year" in 2001. During which time he had started paving the way to his international career by signing for the Wales A team. He made his international debut for Wales during June of 2001 in a Test against Japan, coming off the bench. He then started his next match, at fly-half in a game against Romania in September. In November of that year he played for Wales A against Uruguay, scoring his first try in an international.
In 2003 regional rugby was launched in Wales, and Henson now played for the Ospreys. He made his debut for the Ospreys off the bench on September 9, 2003 in a match against Ulster, scoring two tries and kicking both a penalty and conversion to score 15 points. He was elevated to fly-half for the subsequent match against the Newport-Gwent Dragons, scoring 14 points from kicks in that game as well. 2003 also saw Henson return to the international field for Wales. He played twice, though he was on the bench for another two Tests. He was capped against both the All Blacks and Romania.
Henson came to wider notice in 2004 with a series of excellent performances in Wales' autumn internationals against New Zealand and South Africa. Henson became a firm part of the Welsh starting lineup, and after playing at fullback in the second Test against Argentina and the first against South Africa, he remained in the centres for the remainder of the season.
He remained on the team for the 2005 Six Nations championship. In Wales' opening fixture in February, at home to England, Henson gave an effective performance culminating in a successful 44m penalty kick and much media attention.
Back in his club side, Henson was part of a team which took the Celtic League cup: in the deciding match (Ospreys v Edinburgh, 26 March 2005), he scored 24 of his side's 29 points.
In the (northern hemisphere) summer of the same year, Henson was a member of the Lions tour of New Zealand. He was "devastated not to be playing" in the first Test. When he did get selected for the second test he was unfortunately injured and could not play in the final test. A groin injury delayed his return to club rugby in the autumn of the year. Within months of his Ospreys return, Henson was cited (reported following a game for events during it) for kicking and elbowing an opponent in a game against Leicester on December 19, 2005. He was found not guilty of the kicking offence, but guilty of the elbowing. He was initially suspended for ten weeks and two days: this period was reduced on appeal to seven weeks. Following this suspension and a single game at club level, he returned to international rugby against Ireland but did not shine.
In October 2005 Henson's My Grand Slam Year (ISBN 0-00-721686-6), was published. Comments about the Lions tour and remarks about other players ensured rapid publicity and Henson had to apologise to his team-mates.
Henson was received a 10-week suspension from rugby in late 2005 and was found guilty of elbowing another playing during a match against Leicester . The ban went into the 2006 Six Nations, seeing Henson on the sidelines for Wales for the games against England and Scotland.
Off the field
Gavin Henson's gelled hair, tanned skin, shaved legs and silver (variously golden) boots made him of instant interest to those members of the British media who did not normally cover Welsh rugby. A romance with Cardiff singer Charlotte Church, a tabloid favourite, ensured this interest endured. He appears in adverts for Nike Pro and for one of the Wales rugby sponsors, Brains brewery.
- British & Irish Lions
- Wales U16
- Wales U18
- Wales U19
- Wales Development XV
- Wales A
- Wales U21