Click here for photos of Wales’ training session at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.
Pictured above: Wales’ caretaker coach Scott Johnson, who has stepped into the breach in the aftermath of Mick Ruddock’s shock resignation, shares a joke as his squad go through their paces at Lansdowne Road. Ruddock stepped down for “personal reasons”. Genial Australian Johnson, elevated from his original posting as skills coach, said of his appointment last week: “I’m surprised like everyone this has happened. I had no inkling whatsoever (that Mike would resign).
“It’s all news to us but we all get on with our job. That’s what I’m paid to do. Mike’s a wonderful coach. He is a wonderful human being and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the time I’ve worked with him.
“He is a great rugby coach but his reasons are his reasons.”
Gavin Henson, who was banned for 51 days for elbowing Leicester prop Alex Morena in a Heineken Cup game, come make his first appearance at Lansdowne Road later today if he is used off the bench. The talented Ospreys centre, who turned 24 earlier this month, has not played for Wales since kicking a penalty and a drop goal in last March’s 32-20 Grand Slam defeat of Ireland at the Millennium Stadium.
Henson said of his enforced lay-off: “If you’d told me at the end of last season that I wouldn’t be involved in the autumn internationals or any of the 6 Nations then I would have been gutted. We are in February (now), but it feels like the start of the season which is strange.
“It was little bit of a shock to get the phone call from Alan Phillips last Saturday to say I was invited to train with the boys this week.
‘And with some of the injuries we’ve got in the squad I was lucky to force my way in there, because after my display last week (for the Ospreys against Borders) I shouldn’t really be involved in the 22. But I’ve fitted in well in training and the boys have taken me back in like any other normal player.
“I feel a part of it and have had no problem whatsoever.
“Coming in this week I wasn’t sure what it would be like. But in my eyes, it’s been exactly the same as last season. I’ve seen no change in that side of things and the boys are looking sharp and really confident,” he added.
Henson launches a line kick at Lansdowne Road. Welsh defensive coach Clive Griffiths has admitted that Henson’s return to the squad has been ‘fast-tracked.’ Griffiths, who was a capped international for Wales in both Union and League codes, said: “He (Gavin) is coming back into the squad on the back of one game (Ospreys v Borders). He is feeling his way back in. We would have liked to have eased him back in, but with a lot injuries we have had to fast-track him a bit.”
**All photos by Billy Stickland of Inpho Photography**