Stephen Jones hailed Gavin Henson as a "great, great player" and believes the centre's return to form is crucial to Wales' RBS 6 Nations title challenge.
Off the field, Henson has kept a relatively low profile during the tournament, ducking under the media radar by limiting his interviews and public appearances.
But on the field Henson has been instrumental in Wales’ unbeaten start to the campaign and he returns to Dublin on Saturday chasing both redemption and silverware.
Victory for Wales would secure the Triple Crown in Warren Gatland’s first season in charge and leave them one win from a second Grand Slam in four years.
"Welsh rugby needs Gavin at his best - and he is at his best. He is a great, great player,” Jones said.
"Gavin has matured as a player. He is very influential, especially in the defensive side of the game. He takes a lot of pride in that area and he is very much a leader.
"If you look at his game he is a great kicker, he has great distribution, he is a physically strong guy and he is a balanced runner.”
Two years ago, Henson endured a nightmare afternoon at Lansdowne Road after he was thrust into the action at fly-half when Jones suffered an early injury.
Henson, who had only just returned to the squad following a long lay-off, was greeted by cat-calls from the home supporters and struggled badly as Ireland sealed a comprehensive 31-5 victory.
Afterwards, Henson made the infamous, if overblown, admission that his performance left him feeling “suicidal” and his international career remained on the rocks throughout the Gareth Jenkins coaching era until Warren Gatland took charge in December.
Henson never found favour with Jenkins and was omitted from the World Cup squad at an early stage - but Gatland came in and wiped the slate clean with a determination to get the best out of each individual.
On his first day in the job last December, Gatland said: “I love players to be individualistic. I encourage guys to be a little bit different. Gavin has the ability to be able to do something special. You need those players in your team.”
Henson has been enthused by the new squad environment and the opportunity to be judged on his talent and not reputation.
Gatland and Shaun Edwards have created a new challenging environment in which no player’s position in the side is guaranteed.
Consequently, Wales head to Ireland this week top of the RBS 6 Nations table and in the box seat to claim the title.
“Everybody wants to be involved because we can see these are really good coaches and they’re going to take us to some good places,” Henson said.
“I feel I’m learning every day and that’s what you want from a coach, to teach you new things and show you a way of playing which inspires you.
“It’s been refreshing, a different approach to other coaches I’ve had before and that’s what you need.”