- England No.8 pleased with replacement performance against Ireland
- “A Triple Crown is special” – Morgan
Ben Morgan has hailed the impact of England’s replacements during Saturday’s nerve-shredding 13-10 defeat of Ireland at Twickenham, but says his side will need to be more clinical when the next visitors arrive on March 9.
While backline trio Lee Dickson, George Ford and Alex Goode were not required, each of the forwards on Stuart Lancaster’s bench entered the fray at the weekend with every one contributing considerably.
Bath Rugby lock Dave Attwood was perhaps the most eye-catching, making nine tackles and a critical turnover in an 11-minute shift.
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Joking that his teammate had resembled a “one-man maul-machine”, Morgan – who himself racked up 18 tackles after coming on for Billy Vunipola with 36 minutes on the clock – said the fast-paced nature of the contest required immense effort from all of the match-day 23.
“It was pretty fast and very physical – certainly a lung-buster,” said the Gloucester Rugby No.8 following a punishing gym session at Pennyhill Park. “To be honest I was just trying to get into the defensive line.
“It’s quite nice to hear [your individual statistics] afterwards but you don’t think about it at the time.
“The bench is an important and we always say it is going to be those last 20 minutes that we are killing the game off. Having the likes of Dave Attwood and Henry Thomas to come on is great because they make a big impact.
“They pick the energy up on their own. It’s never a case of just blending in.”
Although Billy Vunipola’s form has reduced Morgan to a place among the replacements for six successive Tests, his rumbustious carrying and a power in the contact area has featured during fine cameo roles in each of those games.
However, the domestic front has not been so straightforward. Losing 10 of 15 league games, Gloucester have slumped to ninth place in the Aviva Premiership and failed to qualify from a group including Munster, Perpignan and Edinburgh in the Heineken Cup.
Morgan has even found it difficult to hold down a starting spot for Nigel Davies’ side, but says the boost of contributing on the internationals stage has given him a fillip since the turn of the year.
“It’s been difficult at Gloucester,” he admitted. “Results haven’t gone our way over a tough start to the season and I’ll be the first to hold my hand up and say I wasn’t where I wanted to be.
“I think I’ve been able to turn that around and pick myself up. It’s been frustrating to be on the bench [for England] but every time you come on you try to make an impact.
“When the game finishes and you feel like you’ve made a contribution, you get confidence and that helps you when you go back to your club.”
Having played more than 50 matches for Scarlets over three seasons up until the summer of 2012, Morgan is familiar with the majority of in Warren Gatland’s Wales set-up.
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Likely to start at the anchor of the scrum with Vunipola ruled out for the rest of the tournament with an ankle injury, he finished by outlining his heady excitement ahead of Sunday week.
In the 2012 and 2013 RBS 6 Nations, Wales were the only side to beat England. If Lancaster’s charges can overturn that hoodoo, they will have a first Triple Crown since 2003.
“[The game against Wales] was my first Test start two years ago,” Morgan finished. “I know a lot about the players but forgetting that, it’s a big occasion anyway. It’s a Triple Crown chance for us – we’ve not won anything since I’ve been involved, so it’s special and something we want to go after.
“They’ve been the reason why we haven’t had any silverware. I think it’s important that we go out there with the same attitude we’ve had every game and focus on our game, getting our bits right.
“We’ve already looked at the Ireland game and where we didn’t quite put opportunities away. Playing a team like Wales, we’ll need to rectify that.”