Jones ready to gamble on Henson
London Welsh director of rugby Lyn Jones is confident Gavin Henson is finally ready to maximise his potential.
Henson has won two Grand Slam titles with Wales but lost his way in 2009 and became more famous for his reality television appearances than his rugby.
When Henson returned to the game he had a brief spell at Saracens before being driven out of both Toulon and then Cardiff Blues within the space of 12 months for disciplinary reasons.
But Jones knows Henson better than anyone, having developed him at the Ospreys into the player that shone for Wales in their title-winning campaigns in 2005 and 2008.
Jones accepts there is a risk in bringing Henson back under his wing but having spoken to the player he believes it is one which is worth taking.
Asked what convinced him of that, Jones said: "His (Henson's) words. People think several different things about Gavin but he is a player with potential who hasn't reached it yet.
"He realises that and wants to do well. Gav has had three or four years of fannying around and not being serious about his rugby.
"He has grown up and he realises now he has four or five years left in the game and he wants to give it his best shot. He is certainly training hard and he's enjoying himself.
"When someone has been in the game for as long as he has, he just needs a comfortable environment to come in and perform. We all appreciate the potential but potential doesn't earn you a living.
"There's a chance and a risk in everything you do in life. Gavin is no different to any other player we've signed this year.
"Are they going to play well and react well? My best guess it that he will do well.
"All we can do is offer him an opportunity to come and enjoy his work and I'm sure the Aviva Premiership will benefit from having someone of his quality in the league."
Henson was set to play at his first World Cup at the end of last year, had it not been for a broken hand suffered in a warm-up international against England.
But since returning from his reality television sabbatical, Saracens, Toulon and Cardiff have all failed to harness Henson's unquestionable talent.
At London Welsh, he will be the centre of attention with Jones planning to play him at fly-half.
"It's my job to give him as much opportunity as possible to express himself, as an outside half," Jones said.
"Relationships are important in a rugby environment and Gavin has had a difficult 18 months, so he just needs to settle down with us, which is what he's doing at the moment.
"He's enjoying the environment and he's practising hard. We'll just see what happens. The one thing we can say about him is that he's as good a defensive outside half as Jonny Wilkinson was."
Henson is one of six signings Jones has made since the club's promotion from the Championship was belatedly confirmed, following an appeal.
It is a backs-to-the-wall situation that Jones is used to.
"It's been hard after being promoted on July 1. The challenge for me now is to push forward and establish a team, and get the players to play as a side rather than as individuals," Jones said.
"This situation reminds me of the time that Neath went bust in 1998 and we recruited from late July, trying to get a team together.
"Also, I find London Welsh very similar to the Ospreys in 2003, in regards to facilities and infrastructure. So it's nothing I haven't done before! Experience is a wonderful thing."
London Welsh have a brutal start to their maiden top flight campaign, starting with Leicester on Sunday, September 2 and then champions Harlequins the following Friday.
Jones has spoken to Exeter boss Rob Baxter, who guided the Chiefs into the Heineken Cup in only their second Premiership season.
"It's a real test for our squad and their ability, but playing against Leicester will clearly show us what the standards are that we need to reach to do well in the league," Jones added.
"It will highlight our strengths and our weaknesses. We know we're not going to be the finished article in time for the first game and we're not trying to be, what we need to do is learn as quickly as we can so we have time to grow."