Gareth Walker hears Gavin Henson take a respectful few of his code switch
If anyone had expected Gavin Henson to blaze onto the Rugby League scene with a series of bold claims about what he expects to achieve, they will have been disappointed last week.
The former Wales and Lions rugby union international and television reality star will be arguably the highest-profile player in all of Rugby League this year in terms of being known across the country.
But after three training sessions in the 13-man code, the clearly humble Henson was more worried about securing a place in the team that has been a near permanent fixture at the foot of League 1 in recent years.
In fact, he could hardly have been more glowing in his praise of what he has seen to date, having spent the majority of his rugby union career at the very top of that sport.
Henson said: “I had my first session last Tuesday, so I’m three sessions in now and it’s pretty tough.
“To be fair, I haven’t trained for two years, I haven’t been in the gym for two years, and I don’t know whether it’s a bit of that or Rugby League training is savage.
“I’m a bit behind, but I’ve got nearly about six weeks to a game if I get picked, so I’m just working hard to get back in shape now.
“Training is so different to rugby union; I can’t get over the contact side of it, it’s flat out, it’s 100 per cent.
“Last night (Tuesday) I probably made about 30 tackles, which is crazy – in rugby union I probably made seven or eight on game day.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen on game day in Rugby League; I’m just trying to get myself ready for it now.”
Henson is one of two major captures by the Raiders for 2021 alongside former Steve Prescott Man of Steel Rangi Chase, who has clearly impressed the Welshman so far.
Henson said: “It’s not just his skill level but his attitude and intensity – he finished a few boys on Tuesday night!
“He’s just so full on in contact, he’s 110 per cent, which you don’t really see in union.
“It’s very rare you go flat out, but every session he’s flat out and so are the rest of the boys.
“It’s mind blowing, but I’m quickly coming to terms with it; it’s great for me and my tackle technique and I need to get better as soon as possible ready for when I start playing.”
Should Henson achieve his goal of making the Raiders’ starting team, he could be lining up alongside Chase at halfback, having spent most of his union career in the centres.
“Our coach Aaron Wood has sort of said from the off that it’ll be six or seven – outside-half, I think,” Henson said.
“In an ideal world, if I perform well enough in training, Rangi will play on the left and I’ll play on the right as first receivers.
“We’ve been doing that in training; I’m really enjoying it and I think it suits me and I’m pretty excited about it.”
Henson has also liked what he’s seen from the ambitious Raiders so far.
He added: “It’s a great set-up, they’re really pushing the club in the right direction.
“There was a club in Bridgend my home town – Celtic Crusaders – and I used to watch those games and I was interested in it.
“It’s ironic now that we train at the Brewery Field in Bridgend, which is great.
“Rugby League is not a big sport in Wales, but we’re trying to change that, and if I can help out in any way that would be great as well.
“There’s enough room for union and League in Wales, as totally different games, but it’d be great for youngsters to try both.”
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