GAVIN Henson was approached to join Wales’ rugby league training camp a year BEFORE he switched codes.
The RU icon has linked up with league One side West Wales Raiders for next year, even though he will be 39-years-old by the time the season starts.
But SunSport has learned talks were held last year between Henson, national boss John Kear and Wales RL chief exec Gareth Kear about him training with them, with a view to him potentially joining their European Championship squad this term.
And his signing – by the club that has won just once in the last THREE seasons, although it only played three matches in 2020 – has been hailed as huge for then sport.
Gareth Kear revealed: “Playing rugby league has always been something Gavin has wanted to do.
“He’s been on our radar, myself and John spoke to Gavin last October about being part of our enlarged train-on squad with a view to giving him an opportunity to train and see how he would adapt to League.
“In the end it didn’t happen but the signing of Gavin Henson is a big statement. On his day he was world class and is still a legend in Wales.
“It will be interesting to see how he performs in League One. Don’t forget It was a huge challenge for Gareth Thomas when he swapped codes at 36.
“Gavin will be 39 when the season starts in 2021 and the fitness requirements are vastly different with the ball in play time of 66 minutes in league compared to 30 minutes in union.
“But I’m sure he will attract some new fans and hopefully he can bring some flair, a few 40/20s and much needed wins for the Raiders next season.”
Henson’s signing came after a meeting between him, Raiders’ chief executive Peter Tiffin and managing director Andrew Thorne.
And what started as an off-the-field discussion about development turned into him becoming a player.
Henson, who runs a pub in the Vale of Glamorgan near Bridgend, said: “The main aim of the first meeting was to see if we could do something to help grow the club and help with some skill session for the younger age groups.
“But after speaking to them both at length and hearing their plans I was keen to actually sign and get back on the pitch.
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“This was never about Welsh caps or money but more of a personal ambition to have a go at rugby league and see how the both codes differ.
“I’m under no illusion the change is going to be a tough one. Regardless of what I have done in the past this is going to be a whole new ball game.”
Tiffin added: “I think he is more excited to be a part of the squad for the new season than anyone else.
“The original plan was to introduce Gav slowly into the 2020 season but with the unforeseen cancellation of this season it will now be the 2021 season where we will see him playing for the club.”