Gavin Henson could play for Bath against Ospreys
GRUFF Rees admits the Ospreys would relish the challenge of going head-to-head with former colleague Gavin Henson tonight (7.30).
The Liberty region travel to Henson's new club Bath looking to put the finishing touches to their pre-season preparations.
After a slender victory over Worcester Warriors last weekend, this is the final warm-up before they return to Pro12 action against Treviso next Saturday.
Henson left London Welsh for The Rec this summer.
And Rees believes he can provide the Ospreys with the kind of top-class test they are looking for.
"I would like to see him on the field challenging our defensive line because we can do with some of that cutting edge against us," said the backs coach.
"In the early part of the Ospreys he played some fantastic rugby and you can't take away his record in this jersey with the number of points he was gathering and man-of-the-match performances he was producing consistently.
"He moved onto some of his Welsh exploits then and things started to turn for him with injuries playing their part.
"But he is still such a talented guy and I hope he plays against us tonight and has a great season.
"A lot of the players live in their own bubble without knowledge of the game and tactical nuances, but Gavin had this."
At the dawn of a campaign, Henson is also contemplating another new beginning.
After going on self-imposed exile from the Ospreys in 2009, he returned to rugby with Saracens in late 2010 and has since had four other clubs in the following three years.
A short spell in Toulon, ended by a bar brawl, was followed by a stint with Cardiff Blues, which saw Henson sacked after a drunken incident on a post-match flight.
Then came a season with London Welsh before this latest switch to Bath.
And Henson has already attracted headlines at his new club after being punched by team-mate Carl Fearns while on a night out in the city.
"I am like every Welsh follower," said Rees.
"We have all had our frustrations with Gavin in the past and perhaps the Ospreys more than most.
"He showed the odd glimpse for London Welsh last year so I can appreciate why Bath signed him. I only got to know him briefly because I started working as a skills coach in the senior group when he was injured.
"I had a few one-to-ones with him but things started to play on his mind mentally and things changed.
"I hope he prolongs his career because he has had enough injuries and hopefully he can play for longer.
"I always found him as someone who was really passionate about rugby."
Henson has played against the Ospreys once before, on New Year's Day 2012 while with the Blues.
His former captain Ryan Jones starts on the Ospreys bench tonight, along with returning British & Irish Lions pair Richard HIbbard and Ian Evans.
Jones hasn't played since the Six Nations defeat of Scotland in March because of a shoulder injury.
Steve Tandy takes a bumper 29-man squad to the Aviva Premiership side, led by flanker Tom Smith.
"It will be great to have Ryan back on the field," added Rees.
"It has been great having him at such an early point in the summer and he is feeling the benefits of having a longer pre-season than he has had in a fair while given the international demands.
"He has picked up the odd bump and bruise which meant he missed last weekend.
"As a player he is itching to get back on the field and he pulls teams together and commands things on the pitch.
"We are expecting a bit more firepower from Bath so hopefully that will sharpen us up for the beginning of the season.
"People like Kyle Eastmond, Jonathan Joseph and Matt Banahan are top quality players."