SARACENS chiefs believe forgotten man Gavin Henson is still “world class” and could make a huge impact if he decides to relaunch his career at Vicarage Road.
And they are ready to let him see out his commitments to television show Strictly Come Dancing if it means clinching a deal for the celebrity Wales centre.
Henson, 28, is one of three or four players Sarries have targeted as cover for injured fly-half Derick Hougaard, as reported first in City A.M. on Tuesday (right).
The major question mark over him, however, is rustiness, as he has not played competitive rugby since March 2009 owing to injury and off-field issues. But he is keen to make a comeback with a London club and Edwards Griffiths, the Saracens chief executive, insists he and director of rugby Brendan Venter retain faith in the British and Irish Lion.
“He is a world class player eager to relaunch his career,” Griffiths told City A.M. yesterday. “There is a complete appreciation at Saracens that Gavin Henson is a world class player who would make an immense contribution to any professional club where he chose to play.”
Henson’s contract with the BBC could tie him down until December, depending on his progress in the show, but Saracens are accepting of that and are exploring whether he might still be able to train with them in the interim.
“We would expect existing commitments to be honoured. But there may be scope for players to train alongside those commitments,” Griffiths added.
Wages aside, Henson would also cost Saracens something in compensation, as he remains contracted to Ospreys, albeit on unpaid leave, but negotiations are not yet thought to have reached that stage. Griffiths said: “Before there was any formal agreement, out of courtesy we’d approach and talk to the club that holds his registration.”
Saracens have moved quickly following Hougaard’s Achilles injury on Saturday against Leinster and Griffiths is confident of finding a solution sooner rather than later.
“Discussions continue but it would be wrong to provide running commentary,” he said. “We have been speaking to a number of players. I’m not going to put a time-frame on it but I think it will be days rather than weeks.”
Henson is hopeful his return to competition will help him force his way back into the Wales squad for next year’s Six Nations and World Cup campaigns.