Rugby Union: Morris set to drive Orrell all the way: A scrum-half back from injury has his eyes on Twickenham. Barrie Fairall met him

Click to follow
The Independent Online
NO ONE is saying it will be as easy as riding a bike, which in the case of Dewi Morris is a sore point, but if Orrell ride their luck and take their chances against Leicester at Edge Hall Road tomorrow, Twickenham could be the next stop. And quite apart from anything else, the sight of Morris motoring could make all the difference.

Which is how Orrell prefer it. Morris in the driving seat is one thing, in the saddle another. After all, the early part of the scrum-half's season was wrecked when he fell off a mountain bike during a charity event last October. A damaged shoulder left him apologetic and the North had to leave him out of the side to face the All Blacks.

As the match was at Anfield, Morris missed out on the opportunity of leaving the home dressing-room wearing a red No 9 jersey. Nor was he around when England beat New Zealand at Twickenham in November and, while Kyran Bracken was retained against Scotland and Ireland at the start of the Five Nations' Championship, it was not until last month that Morris could bring his tally of caps to 17, in the victories over France and Wales.

Now we have a fully fit Lion to tackle visiting Tigers. The task is daunting against a team on a winning roll which includes an 18-0 league success on a trip to the north-west in January. Nor does history favour Orrell, who have yet to reach a cup final. Three times in the last four, they have been beaten at home by London Scottish (1973-74) and Bath ('86-87) and away to Northampton three years ago.

Morris, now 30 and with time running out, is determined to change all that. 'We're the nearly side, as everybody keeps telling us. But we're looking to break the mould and if we could just get to Twickenham it would be great, particularly for someone like Sammy Southern, who has been propping up the scrum for years and is the one man for me who typifies Orrell.'

Leicester, though, are in great form and looking for their 18th straight win to break the club record. 'We're looking upon it as the biggest game in Orrell history,' Morris said. 'Leicester are coming up as massive favourites, but we know what they are capable of and it's just a matter of combating it.

'They can play a fast or a slow game, which generally depends on what Mr Richards or Mr Back have to say about it.' In this case, it may be the slower variety that Morris and Orrell are confronted with, the dynamic Back having withdrawn after breaking a thumb against Harlequins in the league at The Stoop last Saturday.

Northern rock provided the foundations for Bill Beaumont's Grand Slam-winning side in 1980 and Morris sees Orrell's role as an important step in maintaining the North's presence on today's map. 'It's got to be done. We're an unfashionable side. We've none of the glamour like Quins or Bath, but we've kept the flag flying up here and the boys are very proud of that. People in the North respect that, too. You try and fight against clubs who can pull in the stars with jobs and cars. We can't do that, but there's a great atmosphere here and even if some of the players coming through lack some of the skills, they've got big hearts.'

No stars? The modest Morris may never admit to being one, but Des Seabrook sees things differently. 'Dewi's influence on the club is immeasurable,' Orrell's chairman of rugby said. 'He has been instrumental in being where we are and staying where we are. When he came here we had a very strong pack, but since the laws changed we've come to rely on him more and more to conjure up those little things that win matches. He's a great motivator.'

And Morris is eagerly expecting to play even more of a leading role next season as captain of his beloved club. 'Yes, definitely it's something I would like to do. It's a little bit of paying back. I owe Orrell a great deal. They helped put me back in the England side and earn me my Lions caps. If I can get in there and steer the ship and the club has a succcssful season I would have done something.

'But 1995 will be my last season - captain Orrell and, if I'm lucky enough to win my place, do the Five Nations and the World Cup. If you've got to work and support a family you just can't go on because of a commitment level that means you training twice a day five days a week and then playing on Saturday.'

And yet another big Saturday coming up this weekend. 'It's going to start up front and Orrell have always prided themselves on having a good pack, but we've now also got some backs who can whizz the ball out.' Also, as Morris pointed out, 'Orrell is not the closed shop it used to be and to survive you need strength in depth'.

Then again: 'The trouble with the cut-throat world of league rugby is that it is important you are winning all the time, so you find it difficult with 18 league matches, when a dozen was really quite adequate to blood the younger players.'

Which brings us to tomorrow afternoon. Orrell have met Leicester in the cup only once, in the first round way back in 1979, losing 16-7. 'Yes,' Morris said, 'it's going to be very difficult. Obviously it's about training hard and playing hard and hopefully getting a result.' But, lest we forget: 'If not you go and have a good drink. At least we've got no airs and graces. We'll always be the last to leave any clubhouse.' Cheers for Morris and Orrell, champions of the North.

(Photograph omitted)

Comments