Big Ben Is Little Englander

Big Ben Morgan has declared for England. 

His announcement comes just as news is emerging that certain players [Mark Cueto and Danny Care, and for entirely different reasons] have been excluded from English caretaker coach Stuart Lancaster’s Elite Squad for the Six Nations. It’s also mentioned in the ESPN Cueto report that a strong rumor has surfaced that Nick ‘Karsey’ Easter has been omitted.

That’d lead you to believe that Morgan has got the nod from Lancaster that he’s included in the English squad. Given that he has risen to prominence with the Scarlets and is named Morgan, the Mole had always assumed that he was locked down for Wales, and expected to see him play under Gatland sooner rather than later.

However, the competition provided by Tony Faletau for the Welsh No8 jersey must have had a huge implication on his decision. With Karsey aging and out of favor [largely due to his leaked remarks about “flushing £30,000 down the toilet” over the English loss to the French in the RC11 quarter-final] and Brand Haskell expanding to Japan, there’s a definite opening at No8 for England.

Morgan is a one-position man, rather than a rounded back-rower in the mould of Sean O’Brien or Tom Wood. That’s not necessarily a criticism: you know where you stand with a No8 like that, he’s either in or out of the team. With the younger Faletau in ferocious form and only at the beginning of his career at No8 for Wales, it’s a sensible decision to follow the path of least resistance to Twickenham.

He’s well-suited to the traditional English style in that he’s a big carrier who takes a lot of stopping. If England can sort their heads out and refrain from picking two blindsides on either side of him – a big ask for any English coach – he could prove to be the lynch-pin of a competitive back row. The Mole sees a No6. Tom Wood/No7. Chris Robshaw*/No8. Ben Morgan combination for the forthcoming Six Nations, with Tom Croft falling to the bench spot.

In the longer term, however, the Mole sees a future for Worcester’s Matt Kvesic, who had a startlingly good Junior World Cup for an extremely competitive English team that threatened New Zealand’s traditional hegemony at the tournament. Kvesic is a genuine openside and was impressive for Worcester before his injury at the beginning of December.

The Mole is underwhelmed by Robshaw’s openside credentials, and the Quins man lacks either the lineout skills or the ball-carrying explosiveness to be a truly first rate international blindside. However, he can provide reliable cover across the three back row positions, and if his good club form continues to hold up he should find his way into the back row somewhere.

* Had a fairly Freudian slip and initially misspelt it as Christ Robshaw. Fitting, given some of his recent write-ups in the Torygraph.



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