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Gavin Henson convinced West Wales bosses he wanted to play rugby league at 39


GAVIN Henson made his rugby league move an on field one after being sounded out for an off-field role.

Then the tiny club, which has been hammered several times, asked itself, ‘Are we right for him?’

Gavin Henson made his rugby league move a playing one after originally being approached for an off-field role

But the man who pulled off the coup is in no doubt the Wales RU legend can cut it at the age of 39.

Henson has linked up with League One side West Wales Raiders, arguably the worst-performing team in the 13-a-side code’s pyramid.

Their record under their current identity is played 48 matches, won one with seven defeats where they have conceded 100 points or more.

However, Andrew Thorne, who is masterminding the transformation with the signing of former England international Rangi Chase as well as Henson, revealed results were far from the be all and end all.

Much of the work has been to make sure a club in Llanelli still exists – Henson is the next stage of that development, even though the initial thought was not to have him as a player.

Gavin Henson will play rugby league for West Wales Raiders next season

Thorne said: “Gavin’s one of the sport’s biggest signings because of the exposure he brings.

“He’s a friend of a friend and we had a chat, initially for Gav to come on board to pass on his skills and help the younger lads along with things like dealing with the media and social media.

“But as we got talking about other projects and what the club’s about, he said he wanted to become part of it and play.

“Myself, chief executive Peter Tiffin and Gav met up in his pub, he said he wouldn’t mind playing and we walked out and went, ‘Is he right?’

“Although it’s Gavin Henson, we’ve not been the most successful club in the past and it’s a massive jump from being where we were to where we are.

Andrew Thorne and Peter Tiffin from the club met Henson

“But winning is only part of making the club sustainable. Forgetting about other moving parts is a recipe for disaster, as we’ve seen with clubs like Toronto.

“We’ve always had the ambition to get where we are now, the important thing was getting the off the field stuff right first.

“Look at some of the clubs who hammered us. Some of them aren’t around any more. If you put all your money into winning on the pitch and it dries up, what do you do then?”

Now Henson is training with West Wales, Thorne is in no doubt he is good enough to cut it.

Henson will eventually work on helping the club develop off the field by encouraging the next generation

Once the season starts, he will work with the next generation by visiting schools and holding coaching sessions, when they are allowed.

And it is hoped Henson and Chase, who works with a sponsor in the community, can spearhead a new spirit towards the 13-a-side code.

He has already showed he has what it takes to play his new code too, with a Challenge Cup debut against Widnes likely.

Thorne added: “Rugby league will be Gavin’s type of game and having watched training, he’s getting there. He’s asking the right questions and picking things up quickly.

Henson may make his debut against Widnes in the Challenge Cup

“And there are no fears over his age. In League One, a lot of his opponents will either be of a similar age or youngsters coming through.

“If he was playing in the Championship or Super League, it would make a massive difference but he’s still got the skills, he’s till putting players through gaps.

“When we get on the pitch, kids will see what he can do more easily and we’ll see the impact in the area.

“Having Widnes, Gavin Henson and Rangi Chase all under one roof at Stebonheath Park is massive. We could’ve filled the ground if it wasn’t behind closed doors!”



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