Morris reaches point of no return

PILKINGTON CUP FINAL: Nine years in the trenches have taken their toll of spirited performer; The popular Sale scrum-half tells Chris Hewett this will be his last big game - probably

They will converge by the busload on Twickenham today to bid Dewi Morris the fondest of farewells: family, friends and bleary-eyed drinking partners from Crickhowell and Crewe, Wigan and Warrington, old-fashioned Orrell and salubrious Sale. A popular lad, our Dewi; indeed, if popularity could be translated into tries and conversions, there would be no earthly point in Leicester turning up for this afternoon's Pilkington Cup final.

Should Morris leave his favourite stadium with a first winner's medal, it is just possible that his personal battalion of vociferous supporters will give his already successful business career another leg up by sinking a bottle or two of Black Death vodka. It would, however, be asking a bit much of them to drink enough to solve their hero's most pressing professional difficulty; 10 million cases of the stuff would constitute the mother of all hangovers.

"We've got a bit of a problem with Boris Yeltsin at the moment," Morris explained at the end of another long day in which he had just about managed to balance the demands of his job as his company's national sales manager with his more familiar role as Sale's vibrantly enthusiastic scrum-half. "A year ago, we were exporting between eight and 10 million cases of vodka to Russia annually. Then the president slapped a ban on it. No more vodka imports, full stop. We're still selling them gin, but it's not quite the same."

From today onwards, Morris will spend rather more of his time pondering the plusses and minuses of the vodka flow-chart. He has yet to slam the door completely on his playing career - he has two seasons left on his Sale contract - but it looks increasingly likely that he will invoke his get-out clause and call it a day after this last hurrah against the Tigers. "You can go on and on in this game but there comes a time," he said with just a trace of sadness in his voice. "This is probably the end.

"I simply can't do it all again next season, not to the extent I've done it this time. I'm 33, not 23, and while my employers have been good to me throughout my rugby life it's becoming physically impossible to perform both jobs professionally. Anyway, I'm not as fit as I was. I was fairly inactive for 12 months after the 1995 World Cup and it's difficult to get all the way back to peak condition after a lay-off like that."

Happily, Morris will not leave the stage in a state of advanced burn- out, as he did two years ago. He has found his Indian summer every bit as invigorating as he had hoped when he took the plunge and returned to top-flight rugby last August; and with a daughter of seven months to contend with at home, his celebrated zest for life is in full flood once again.

"It's not a case of my body insisting that I retire. Quite honestly, I don't feel anywhere near as tired as I did after the World Cup. God, I was shattered after that. I'd gone round the training track and done the weights that many times, made so many sacrifices in so many different ways, that when we left South Africa I said to myself: 'That's it. All over. Let's go back to life and start living again.' I don't feel that way now.

"In fact, I'd love to stay involved with Sale in some capacity because they're doing things the right way. I'd be lying if I said the financial package had nothing to do with my decision to come out of retirement - of course it did - but I agreed to play because I knew the club was being run professionally and that we'd be fully competitive. That was very important to me; it's no fun being kicked up the arse every Saturday afternoon, no matter how much you're being paid."

Nine years in the trenches have left their mark. Three broken noses, a comprehensively knackered left shoulder joint, problems with both knees, stretched and strained ligaments in his right ankle and, at the start of this season, a busted rib or two courtesy of a big hit at West Hartlepool; that is a heavy toll in anyone's language and although the latter injury gave Morris some unexpected quality time with baby Jessica, the price tag is becoming seriously inflationary. Yet even in last week's ferocious battle royal with Leicester at Heywood Road, sheer enjoyment was the name of the game.

"One of the most rewarding aspects of this season has been working with John Mitchell, whose contribution as director of rugby has been huge. I'm glad I never had to play against him, that's for sure. There is no arrogance about the man - quite the opposite, because any reference to his own achievements has to be dragged from him - but he has brought a hard winning edge to the club and that makes all the effort worthwhile.

"I've always taken the view that rugby games are there to be won. With John in place here, all that old English 'Don't worry, chaps, it's only a game' nonsense has gone for good. We've got the New Zealand attitude now and it's making things happen for us. That's why I'll be around in some shape or form next season - if, of course, John can find a use for me."

Whether Sale's eager embrace of Mitchell's stern All Black virtues will guide them home against Leicester this afternoon is a moot point, but Morris is in no doubt that his side has struck a chord with the wider rugby public. "Without being funny, I think a Sale victory would be good not only for the North-west, where it would help attract new investment, bigger signings and better crowds, but for every rugby-playing area outside Leicester itself. You could go round every club in the land right now, ask them who they want to win and receive the same answer. I don't think we have any enemies out there and that is how it should be.

"Even though Twickenham is not quite the place it was before the rebuild, it is still a magnificent stage to go out on. Mind you, I'll be a bag of nerves before kick-off; I may have been around a fair old time but I still feel physically sick before a big game and it seems to get worse with age. I won't miss that side of rugby one little bit but I have to admit that given the choice, I'd love to be 23 all over again."

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star