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