England and Wales both wanted him, but who is Ben Morgan?

If you were an English fan yesterday who greeted the news of Ben Morgan choosing to play for England with a reaction similar to; “Brilliant. Who?”, you are forgiven. What you don’t know, is that he could become a star.

Born in the West Country but plying his trade in the west of Wales, Morgan has chosen to represent the country of his birth, after it became clear that both England & Wales were keen to include the young number 8 in their squads for the Six Nations. After contact with both Warren Gatland and Stuart Lancaster, despite playing his domestic rugby in Wales (initially with Cardiff Blues before joining the Scarlets in 2009), Morgan has chosen to run out at Twickenham rather than the Millennium Stadium.

Physically, Morgan is impressive. At 6″3 and over 18 stone, he is a huge presence at the back of the scrum. His size does not take away his pace, making him valuable in attack. Hard work on his fitness and conditioning with the Scarlets coaches means that he is more than just a 50 minute lump. Given the way young Welsh talent seems to be flourishing both provinincally and nationally, Morgan could arguably be in no better place to learn his trade. In working with Nigel Davies and Simon Easterby, he is receiving excellent coaching, which will only increase working with an enthusiastic Graham Rowntree.

The news is great for England because looking forward, Morgan can certainly fill a hole. With Nick Easter now too old for the future and James Haskell away in Japan, the number 8 shirt is vacant. Luke Narraway should be in contention after years biding his time in the Saxons, whilst Thomas Waldrom is qualified but far from a long-term prospect. It would not be ridiculous to see him start against Scotland. Whereas over the next decade Morgan would have competed for a Welsh shirt with the talented Toby Faletau, he has the chance with England to make himself indispensable.

But, as with all talents, Morgan is young and has a lot to learn. He has only made 42 appearances so far for the Scarlets, scoring three tries, and as with all young players at international level will need to be given patience to develop. A potential back row of Tom Croft, Chris Robshaw and Morgan holds plenty of promise. If England had let him slip through their clutches, á la Ryan Giggs, they might have always regretted it.

by Ben Coles

22 thoughts on “England and Wales both wanted him, but who is Ben Morgan?

  1. Looks taller than 6’3″ – bit surprised by that. Big boy nonetheless with oodles of potential – really looking forward to seeing him playing for England. Couple of appearances in this year’s six nations would be nice, bring him on when Easter runs out of steam around the 50′ mark.

    By the way, I think the Ryan Giggs comparison is off the mark – in fact it’s the reverse of this situation. Giggs was never in England’s clutches – he’s a Welsh player who plays in England; Morgan’s an English player who plays in Wales. Surely a better comparison would have been someone like Tom Shanklin? Or Dallaglio, who was tapped up by Ireland before making his England debut.

    1. Was less a comment on how he chose to play for England, more how England lacked a left sided midfielder for a decade in the knowledge that Giggs could have potentially played for them.

      Imagine if England failed to produce a world class number 8 over the next decade, and saw Morgan performing exceptionally on a consistent basis for Wales?

      1. Aha. Good point then.

        Now, are there any awesome, England-qualified, natural opensides lurking somewhere under the radar?

        1. Technically Andy Saull has beautiful openside flankers talents, love watching him play…Not sure what the thoughts are in Europe about him as I am in RSA…?

  2. Surely an even better comparison would’ve been Riki Flutely / Shontayne Hape? No family or birth connections to a country but qualify on residency? At least Shanklin / Dallaglio were through parental birth place.

  3. Giggs could not have played for England as he was not English qualified, being born in Wales to Welsh parents. He played for England at schoolboy level, but that’s simply because who you represent at that level is driven by where you go to school (Giggs had moved to Manchester from Cardiff by then) rather than your nationality.

    Anyway, Ben Morgan is a wonderful player who will serve England well, no doubt.

  4. Firstly let’s end the discussion about football players on here please. Secondly Morgan does look like a potential problem solver for England. Narraway and Waldrom are both the wrong side of 25 for the future. Stick Morgan in now and let him ply his trade on the big stage. I personally think he could hold his own if given the chance at international level. At the moment though the battle for 6 is very interesting. Wood, Croft, Robshaw. It’s the 7 position which is now the problem. Just depends if you want a real 7 like Saull, Seymour, Armitage etc. or if you’re happy with Wood or Robshaw filling in.

  5. I think Wood can do a job at 7 for England as can Robshaw (he’s been playing a lot there as the big Samoan lad tends to play 6 for Quins).

    But neither of them are traditional open-sides and I think the RWC demonstrated how necessary a ball-fetcher and link man is at 7 nowadays

    Saull was truly excellent against Quins the other week and could be what England have been missing. Armitage is out as he plays in France. I’ve not seen Seymour recently but have heard good things

    At blind-side, I’d take Croft out of the equation. For me, he’s never really shown any form for England other than as a line-out receiver and he doesn’t seem to hit the rucks or tackles like a good blind-side should.

    Given that both Robshaw and Wood can do a job as a line-out receiver, in my view, Croft is a luxury we can do without

    Personally, I’d take Robshaw as blind-side and captain. Wood on the bench as back-row cover. Saull on the openside

    As for 8, there’s not much option. I think they’ll probably stick with Easter for the 6 Nations but get Morgan into the squad. I’ve always liked Narraway but his form seems inconsistent and he is regularly injured. The only other option is Dowson, but he’s not really an 8 either

  6. If the loose trio is Robshaw, Croft and Morgan which of them will be playing towards the ball? I’m from RSA so dont know all these guys to great but have seen them play a bit and they are all attacking players right? More in the Jerome Lawrence Dallaglio mould than Neil Back or Willem Alberts than Heinrich Brussouw? Unless Lancaster is similar to Jake White who does not really believe in a so-called “fetcher”?

  7. does saul keep Burger out of the sarries team?
    i dont think he does.

    I think robshaw can do the “fetcher” role, hes quite a squat fellow (6’2) – in fact he bears an uncanny resemblance in terms of size and shape to a certain richie mccaw who is apparently the NZ “fetcher”.

    I would happily have robshaw, wood in the same back row but you do need some go forward, and i cant think of an 8. (Waldrom is over the hill, when you bear in mind we are building for the RWC).

    Time for NArraway to step up i think.

    1. Burger starts more often than Saull because he is truly awesome. A massive tackler and a fetcher combined. Not many of them around with his class. I would still put Saull in as a true 7.

    2. Thought I would let you know Jimmy that both Waldrom and Narraway are 28. So really they’re both over the hill. Maybe time for Morgan to step up?

    3. Being the same build doesn’t make you the same player. Robshaw is a great player but not a fetcher.

      Saul was all over Robshaw at the breakdown the other day. Saul is the only specialist 7 we have. But it is a tough one, nobody wants to start a player who doesn’t start for his club. How much game time has he had at all this year?

  8. No he doesn’t Jimmy but then who would? Burger is awesome and one of the best players on the planet

    I like Robshaw as he’s an all-round player. He’s got a decent brain, shows some nice handling touches, can turn-over ball, is strong and quick (often getting over the gain-line), tackles like a demon and just keeps on going and going and going.

    Is rarely injured as well

    Is he the best in the world at any of those things? No, But the overall package is pretty good

    I know this sounds like a bit of man-love for Robshaw here but I think he’s exactly the type of player England need at the moment.

  9. So if we decide we don’t need an old school 7 this would be my back row.

    6. Wood
    7. Robshaw
    8. Waldrom
    on the bench. Saull

    1. I do see Wood and Robshaw as essentially 6.5s so to play them together wouldn’t be that unbalanced.

    2. dazza – if Stu Lanc is true to his word of building towards the next RWC, then hopefully Waldrom wont get picked.

  10. Looking forward to seeing Morgan introduced. Not seen too much of him, but all i have heard are good things.

    As for Saull, i honestly believe he needs to change clubs. He is a very good player, but with Burger keeping him out all the time, he needs to go somewhere where he’ll be first choice 7 and get regular gametime. Until that happens i don’t think he’ll be probably recognised.

  11. Some worthy points.The WC showed that England really do need a genuine openside.’Utility’ backrows’,I believe,like utility Props,lack that fine specialist edge that is required at this level.(Despite the continued shambles at the scrum.)If England are smart and manage to involve Saull,it may buck a trend and encourage genuine 7’s to develop in the coming four years.But I’m probably getting ahead of myself.There is talk of a return of Borthwick.

  12. I don’t think this – “Whereas over the next decade Morgan would have competed for a Welsh shirt with the talented Toby Faletau” – affected Morgan’s decision as I think he’s a proud Englishman who wants to play for England. But it does have to be said that Faleatau is so immense right now it’s hard to see anyone in Europe catching him once he fully develops. So if he stayed in Wales Morgan would have been injury cover for Faleatau for the next 10 years.

    Anyway, good luck to him with England. He has certainly livened up the Scarlets play, finally giving those awesome backs some go forward ball.

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