Will Henson feature in SA?
Wed, 14 May 2014 07:41
The trial is a great platform for us
Gavin Henson's hopes of taking part in a Welsh trial match that could see him selected for next month's two-Test tour of South Africa are set to be crushed.
The 32-year-old Bath centre, one of the most gifted players of his generation but with a chequered past off the field, has not played for Wales since being injured during a 2011 World Cup warm-up game against England in Cardiff.
However, he was included in a 26-man 'Probables' squad that will play the 'Possibles' at Swansea's Liberty Stadium on May 30 - in the kind of trial match that was a well-know fixture during Rugby Union's amateur era, but which Wales last used in 2000.
But it now appears unlikely that Henson, and other Wales players at Premiership clubs, will be released for the trial.
English and French teams are under no obligation to release their players for the game as it is not a full Test match as defined by the International Rugby Board.
"Premiership Rugby has a policy to only release non-England players under the conditions of IRB Regulation 9," a Premiership Rugby spokesman said.
"This regulation covers international release for every Test country across the world.
"This trial match does not fall under IRB Regulation 9."
Even if Bath were to release him, Henson will likely need to come through the west country club's European Challenge Cup Final against English rivals Northampton in Cardiff the week before if he is to be fit for the trial game.
Northampton wing George North could miss the trial if the Saints are in the Premiership Final at Twickenham on May 31, while the Racing Metro trio of Jamie Roberts, Mike Phillips and Dan Lydiate could also be absent if their club is in the French Top 14 Final the same weekend.
Several Wales players are set to miss the Springbok series through injury - including captain Sam Warburton, Leigh Halfpenny, Justin Tipuric, Scott Williams and Richard Hibbard.
And the fact Rhys Priestland, who suffered a knee injury last weekend, has not been named in either of the trial teams, indicates the Scarlets flyhalf will be ruled out as well.
Wales coach Warren Gatland is due to announce his 31-man squad for the tour, which includes Tests in Durban and Nelspruit, immediately after the trial match.
Gatland's deputy, Rob Howley, who will take charge of the 'Probables', played in the last such Welsh trial in 2000.
"The trial is a great platform for us to see all of these players up close and allow them to pit themselves against each other," said Howley.
"It takes us back to the traditional Wales trials of old, and gives players an opportunity to put their hand up for the Wales jersey. Both sides will be going hard against each other with players having a point to prove.
"It's also a vital game in our preparation ahead of the tour to South Africa. The vast majority of the squad wouldn't have had any game time after last weekend, and this allows us to have a meaningful match."
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