Jonathan Davies says Gavin Henson's code switch can attract players from 'dour' RU

Jonathan Davies says Gavin Henson's code switch can attract players from 'dour' RU

March 19, 2021

GAVIN Henson can help rugby league finally crack Wales – even though he has crossed codes 12 years after he maybe should have.

For having him at West Wales Raiders can show kids there is an alternative to ‘dour’ rugby union, believes Jonathan Davies.

And team-mate Rangi Chase cannot wait to play alongside the man he used to pick on a computer game!

RU legend Henson will step out for the League One side against Widnes in the Challenge Cup on Sunday after a meeting with the owners about becoming an ambassador grew into him playing for them.

Davies – who starred in both codes and hails from Llanelli, where the Raiders play – believes seeing the pub owner in nearby St Brides Major in the 13-a-side game can spur others to make the jump.

He said: “It’s raising awareness that kids can go and try rugby league. If they don’t make the regional sides, they don’t want to play union.

“And the regional game is very dour. Internationals are great but below that, players look like they don’t enjoy it.

“If they don’t make the regional sides, they go to a semi-pro side, why not a semi-pro rugby league side? There’s a lot of talent at that level, so maybe league clubs should look at that area.

“I’m sure there are a lot of talented Welsh rugby players around, even below the regional level, but it’s been difficult for league clubs because of the money union players have been having.

“Gavin’s happy running his pub and he enjoys the sport. The main thing is he wanted to try it and there was somewhere local for him to do it. He’s got the skill set to fit in.”

Henson is not the only big name to try and help the Raiders crack Wales. Former England international Chase is also helping them on the pitch and his more illustrious team-mate is blown away by the skill he was more than aware of.

But the ex-Castleford and Salford man said: “Seeing people they’ve idolised, like Gavin, coming across might encourage young kids to do the same.

“I was a big rugby union fan and when I was young, I loved the Rugby 08 computer game and I always used to pick him.

“He had the tan and the sext hairdo playing for Wales. It’s crazy how things turn around.”

Henson has always had a connection to rugby league. Ironically, the first jersey he ever had was a Widnes one and watched the old Celtic Crusaders side.

He is still getting used to things like the tackle count and tackling that makes him feel like he will pop a rib.

But already the game has made an impact on him as he said: “From six weeks of training, I wish I’d given it a go.

“I took time out of union when I was about 27. That would’ve been the time to switch and do something different. Then maybe come back to union a much better player.

“Union has maybe lost its way a bit. I enjoy watching internationals, apart from that it’s tough to watch. If league is clever now, it can steal a march on union.

“It’s a much better game than I actually thought. I’m still learning at the age of 39.

“But if I’m coming off with the Man of the Match award tomorrow, I’ll be saying, ‘I want to play for Wales!’”

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