Morgan's recall for Scarlets irks England

No 8 forced to return to club rather than rest with country while Narraway chooses move to France

Stuart Lancaster did not admit it in so many words, but he has had his fill of Wales and its rugby population for a while. No sooner had England's caretaker coach finished licking his wounds after last weekend's narrow defeat at the hands of the World Cup semi-finalists than he found his best-laid plans further undermined by the Llanelli-based Scarlets, who pulled rank in respect of the highly rated No 8 Ben Morgan.

Morgan left the England camp yesterday, to link up with the Scarlets for tomorrow's RaboDirect Pro12 game against Connacht. The sooner the Bristol-born No 8 finds his way back across the Severn, the easier life will be.

That may happen quickly. Morgan, who was fast-tracked into the England squad at the start of the Six Nations, has been linked with a move to Gloucester at the end of the season – a theory that gained credence yesterday when the current Kingsholm No 8 and captain, Luke Narraway, announced that he will play for Perpignan next term. Narraway, the best footballing back-rower in the country by a considerable distance, made the decision for two reasons: firstly, because his chances of resuming what was once a promising international career have become increasingly remote and secondly because he had been told things were moving in a "new direction" at club level. Quite possibly in the direction of Morgan.

Lancaster, preparing for a difficult trip to France on Sunday week, had wanted to wrap his starting line-up from the Wales game in cotton wool. Fourteen of them will indeed ease their way through a light training session at Loughborough University today. The exception is Morgan.

"Yes, we tried to talk Scarlets into letting Ben stay with us, but ultimately it was their call and they told us they required him for their game this week," Lancaster said. "Because Ben plays his club rugby in Wales he's not covered by the Elite Player Agreement, like those playing in the Premiership. You can have the negotiation when these things arise, but you're not in a very strong position."

By agreeing a move to the rugby badlands of Catalonia, where the locals are even more boisterous than those who congregate in the Kingsholm Shed, Narraway, who has seven caps, has effectively closed himself off from Test rugby. It is current Twickenham policy not to pick from abroad, unless exceptional circumstances arise. While much of the 28-year-old's recent rugby has been exceptional, mere attacking brilliance does not meet the governing body's criteria. When he crosses the Channel, he will leave his red-rose ambitions at passport control.

"I think the selection policy is here to stay – certainly, I've heard nothing to the contrary," Lancaster said. "I spoke to Luke on Monday, when he contacted me to inform me of his intentions. We spoke about how difficult it would be for him to press his claims for an England place and he's fully aware of the situation. It's a player choice and I understand that this is a great opportunity for him. I also know that there are plenty of other people who want to play in the back row for England."

In all, 18 of Lancaster's 32-man squad were released from camp yesterday. Joining Morgan on the road out of Loughborough was the fly-half Charlie Hodgson, who missed the Wales game with a finger injury and must now prove his fitness with Saracens, who meet Northampton at Vicarage Road on Sunday. Even if he plays a blinder, it is difficult to see him returning to the starting line-up in Paris. As the coach pointed out, the midfield axis of Owen Farrell, Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi punched their weight against Wales.

Not that Farrell was in the best of health yesterday. Together with the wing Chris Ashton, he was struggling with a bug. At the same time, there were concerns over the lock Courtney Lawes, who was packed off to hospital for a scan on a shin injury. Two fringe players, the Harlequins centre Jordan Turner-Hall and the Northampton flanker Calum Clark, were under treatment for ankle and shoulder problems respectively.

Wisely, Lancaster resisted any temptation he might have felt to moan about the refereeing of Steve Walsh in the closing seconds of last weekend's game, although he did refer to the Australian official's failure to give England one last penalty opportunity – a major mistake – by saying: "We were playing an advantage, so it's clearly something on which he will have to reflect."

The coach was more interested in the scrummaging and discipline issues that cost England their unbeaten record in this season's championship.

"We're making progress," he said, "but we lost some composure under pressure against Wales and we can't afford to do that again."


election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'