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Gavin Lloyd Henson

(born February 1, 1982 in Bridgend) is a Welsh rugby union player who plays for the Ospreys regional side 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.

Gavin Henson's father, Alan Henson, captained 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. Henson came to wider notice in 2004 with a series of excellent performances in Wales' autumn internationals against New Zealand and South Africa. He remained on the team for the 2005 Six Nations championship. In Wales' opening fixture in February, at home to England, Henson performed admirably, inflicted some effective tackles (in particular on the much hyped English debutant, Mathew Tait, who he memorably picked up and carried during one crunching tackle), and took an 48 metre penalty kick from the sideline in order to win the match in the dying minutes of the game, resulting in his naming as man of the match. Despite Henson being an acclaimed kicker, (also successfully converted a 54 metre penalty vs. Ireland in the 2005 Six Nations) Wales' flyhalf, Stephen Jones, is the regular kicker. 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. 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. ([1])

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 (interview in The Observer). When he did get selected for the second test, he did not play well and was injured for the final test. A groin injury delayed his return to club rugby.

Following a Heineken Cup match for the Ospreys against Leicester on December 19, 2005, Henson found himself once again at the centre of a media storm. During the game he appeared to kick Leicester prop Alex Moreno and later elbowed him in the face, breaking Moreno's nose; both incidents were missed by the match referee. However, after the game, the IRB cited Henson for both actions. Five days later a disciplinary found him guilty of elbowing Moreno, but cleared Henson of kicking him. Due to the seriousness of the assault, the panel decided to suspend Henson for 10 weeks and 2 days. The ban means that Henson will miss the first three of Wales' Six Nations games as well as a number of important fixtures for the Ospreys. The ban was appealed and thus shortened due to the fact that the elbow was a retaliation because Moreno grabbed Henson from an offside position.

Henson has played in a variety of positions including fly-half, fullback and inside centre. Currently, he plays on the Welsh team as inside centre. He appears in adverts for Nike Pro and for one of the Wales rugby sponsors, Brains brewery.

In October 2005 Henson's My Grand Slam Year (ISBN 0007216866), was published. His comments about the Lions tour and a claim that Brian O'Driscoll tried to gouge his eye in the Six Nations ensured rapid publicity.

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