June International Tours

Henson faces nervous British & Irish Lions wait


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Gavin Henson faces a nervous wait to discover the full extent of an ankle problem that threatens his availability for the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa.

Wales centre Henson limped off just before half-time during holders the Ospreys 17-0 Anglo-Welsh Cup semi-final loss to Gloucester at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday.

Injuries have meant Henson has started just two of Wales’s nine Tests this season and his latest setback came just a few weeks before the April 21 announcement by coach Ian McGeechan of the Lions squad to face world champions South Africa in a three-Test tour series starting in June.

“It looks like an injury to his right ankle,” said Sean Holley,” the Ospreys’ head coach.

“The ankle is non weight-bearing at the moment, and he is having it iced.”

Henson was not the only Lions candidate to go off injured here, being joined on the sidelines by Ospreys and Wales lock Ian Gough (thigh) while Gloucester and England centre Mike Tindall saw his match cut short by a knee problem.

The Ospreys dominated territory and possession in the first-half but the Welsh regional side couldn’t find a way through Gloucester’s defence.

Gloucester fly-half Ryan Lamb was the Ospreys chief tormentor, kicking penalties in the third and 43 minutes before a 68th minute drop-goal put the Cherry and Whites in front by two scores.

Lamb added another penalty before ex-England wing Iain Balshaw set the seal on victory with a try four minutes from time after he’d intercepted a pass from Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips inside Gloucester’s 22 before sprinting clear.

Victory meant Gloucester, branded “chokers” after just failing to win several trophies in recent seasons, remained on course for a domestic double.

“People put themselves on the line. We had to front up physically, and if that performance answers some of the criticisms of us, then great,” said Gloucester coach Dean Ryan.

The Ospreys are still in contention for the Celtic League but will need a major improvement if they are to defeat European Cup holders Munster in their April 12 quarter-final.

“We played a lot of positive rugby, but we lacked a clinical edge,” Holley said. “We didn’t make it today, but we will roll up our sleeves.

He added: “We couldn’t have a better game than the Munster game to get up for and put this result right.

“It is a huge test of character for the players – there are clearly areas to work on.”

Gloucester will face Cardiff in the April 18 final at Twickenham after the Welsh side saw off Northampton 11-5 in the second of Saturday’s semi-finals, both played at the Ricoh Arena.

The Blues extended their unbeaten record against English sides to 11 matches thanks to six points from the boot of full-back Ben Blair, a former All Black, and a try from scrum-half Jason Spice.

Sapa-AFP Rugbyweek.com

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