Gavin Henson is a massive signing for West Wales Raiders, says John Kear

Wales coach John Kear has welcomed the switch of codes from former British and Irish Lions fly-half Gavin Henson.

The former Ospreys and Dragons player has signed for League 1 club West Wales Raiders and will be eligible to play in the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.

Although he will be 39 by the time he pulls on a Raiders jersey, Kear believes the signing is something of a coup for the Llanelli-based club, who finished bottom of League 1 in 2019 with just one win from their 20 matches.

Kear said: “I think it’s a massive signing for a League 1 club. His name alone will generate publicity aplenty in Wales.

“Should he play, he’ll attract a crowd as well for I know from being in and around Wales that he’s absolutely looked upon with God-like status.”

Henson, who won 34 caps for Wales, was released by the Dragons at the end of last season but never announced his retirement and Raiders spokesman Andrew Thorne insists the signing is no publicity stunt.

Thorne said: “It was never intended as a publicity stunt. We were just picking his brains initially but now he’s itching to get on the pitch. He’s a proud Welshman and he wants all Wales teams to do well.

“It’s come at the right time for all of us. One of his biggest regrets is that he didn’t give rugby league a go and he’s such a high-profile individual that he’ll be a catalyst for other people to join us.”

Henson was in the Wales team that completed the Six Nations Grand Slam in 2005 and 2008 and went on the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand in 2005 but has never appeared at a World Cup.

That could change when England host the Rugby League World Cup next October and Kear says he will be closely following his progress.

Kear added: “With my Wales hat on, I spoke to Gavin about 18 months ago but he needed to get a club and, if he’s playing very very well indeed, he would be considered.

“He admires the game but he’s obviously been out of contact and collision for a long time, that’s why I’m pleased he’s signed for a club.

“But he’d have to play well because we’ve got people like Bradman Best, Chester Butler, Rhodri Lloyd and Elliot Kear, so some good threequarters.

“I think it’s welcome for the game and obviously it’s one I’ll keep my eye on with interest.”

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