Six Nations 2014: New souped-up Ben Morgan faces Welsh road test at Twickenham

The No 8 has always possessed attacking skills. Now he has been working on his impact tackling

No one in English rugby – or in Welsh rugby, for that matter – ever doubted Ben Morgan's ability as an attacking No 8. What they doubted was his fitness, his weight of tackle… maybe his desire.

According to the West Countryman, who lost his international place to Billy Vunipola before Christmas and has reclaimed it only because his rival suffered an ankle injury in the Six Nations victory over Ireland last weekend, those issues have been addressed. At Twickenham a week on Saturday, that claim will be tested to the limit.

Raised in Gloucestershire but developed as a back-row forward in Red Dragon country – first in Merthyr Tydfil, then professionally by the Llanelli-based Scarlets – he could hardly have chosen a better fixture in which to prove a point: England versus Wales, with both countries chasing the Six Nations title.

"My time with Scarlets was absolutely crucial: they were the ones who picked me up and gave me an opportunity and I'm grateful to them, because without that chance I wouldn't be where I am now," said Morgan. "But I'm English. I have no regrets at all about choosing to play for my own country."

Even despite the disappointments of recent weeks and months – all that time parked on the bench, watching Vunipola on the field? "Yes, I've been on the bench, and rightfully so," he responded. "Let's be honest, Billy has played out of his skin. But with his misfortune comes my good fortune. I can't go out there against Wales on a one-man mission, but it will be good to express my frustration."

It is a popularly held view that Morgan, who recrossed the Severn to join Gloucester in the summer of 2012, was compromised in the first half of the season by the frailties of the Cherry and White forwards in front of him. But while he admits his form "wasn't where I wanted it to be" at that point, he does not attach the slightest blame to a creaking scrum. "I can't use the front row or the front five as a reason for not playing well," he said. "That would be too easy. Regardless of whether things are going right or wrong, you still have to be able to stand out as an individual and do what you can do."

It was an honest response – and an accurate one. Gloucester's set-piece work has indeed bordered on the hopeless this season, but Morgan's perceived deficiencies in conditioning and defence were being discussed by the England coaches during the Test series in South Africa two years ago. Since then, he has worked hard in the gym and even harder in giving his tackling game an aggressive edge.

"I wanted to change because I wasn't happy with the way things were and I didn't want to fade away," he commented. "It's easy to be forgotten in this game." And have the changes been made? "The harder times tend to be the character-building times and I think that period helped me put things right," he said. "It's still the case that the modern No 8 must get over the gain line with some big carries and be on top of his positioning in the back field. But I've also been working on my impact tackling. That's where you can force your opponents on to the back foot and really make a mess of their breakdown."

The Rugby Football Union confirmed that it had launched an investigation into how a ticket for last weekend's England-Ireland match, allocated to the red rose outside-half Owen Farrell, ended up being sold on a website for more than six times its face value. However, the governing body emphasised that Farrell was entirely blameless and would not face a sanction.

Ireland have received a blow with the news that their fly-half, Jonathan Sexton, could miss the rest of the Six Nations with a thumb ligament injury. His club, Racing Metro, said Sexton could be out "from 10 days up to six weeks".

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
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

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee