Former Wales rugby union star Gavin Henson makes 'relentless' rugby league debut at 39

Gavin Hensons new coach has given the former Wales and British and Irish Lions rugby union star a pass mark on his rugby league debut.
Henson has switched codes at 39 after 33 tests for Wales from 2001 to 2011 and one for the Lions on their 2005 New Zealand tour.

Now, Henson who owns a gastro pub in Llanelli is playing league for the West Wales Raiders, who play in Englands League One third tier semi-professional competition.

Henson made his debut in the Raiders 58-4 Challenge Cup defeat to Championship tier two club Widnes on Sunday (Monday NZ time).

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He played in the halves, outside Raiders captain Chase, and was not held responsible for any of Widnes' 11 tries.

Henson told BBC Wales he learned a lot'.

It's the first time I played the game. I watched it, but there's nothing quite like playing.

Its so relentless, it's non-stop. I need to get fitter, basically.

I think I did alright. I just couldn't offer much, it was a very tiring game.'

Henson said he had six weeks to get sharper before the start of the League One season.

He commented that an early red card to Raiders teammate Jamie Murphy "killed the game', although it was understandable because emotions were running high.

Michael Steele/Getty Images
Gavin Henson of West Wales Raiders looks to break past Danny Craven of Widnes Vikings.

Hensons coach, Aaron Wood was happy with his veteran rookie's first effort.

I thought he looked threatening on a couple of occasions, Wood told The Guardian.

He said he missed the jump on a couple of things, but hes seen that, and he knows where hes going to get better, which is good. For a first hit-out for a bloke whos never played rugby league before, I was impressed.

Speaking before the match, Henson told The Guardian he was "absolutely loving' his immersion in rugby league. Its a much better game than I thought. Its very tactical, and Im learning a lot of new stuff, even at 39.

He said while he enjoyed watching test rugby union, domestically, union has lost its way a bit whereas league is an exciting game.

If rugby league is clever it could really steal a march on union in Wales, because its a better game to watch and play in.

Michael Steele/Getty Images
West Wales Raiders' Kiwi captain Rangi Chase makes a break against Widnes. He is playing alongside Gavin Henson at the Llanelli-based club.

Meanwhile, Chase a Dannevirke-born former New Zealand Mori representative who played in the NRL for Wests Tigers and the Dragons said he never dreamed he would one day play alongside Henson.

If youd have asked me 12 months ago where Id be now I definitely wouldn't have said here alongside Gav,'' Chase said in The Daily Mirror.

I was a big rugby union fan, and when I was younger I played Rugby 08 and would always pick him because he was good in that.

Thats how I first knew him, then I saw him play for Wales with the old tan and the sexy hair do. Its crazy how things turn around, and now Im lucky enough to play with him.

Chase, 34, was Super League's Albert Goldthorpe Medal winner as Player of the Year in 2011, but was banned for two years in 2017 after testing positive for cocaine.

He has since resurrected his career at Doncaster before joining West Wales this season and promptly being named as captain.


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