Gloucester Rugby: Hogg's praise for maturing Morgan
BEN Morgan's constant progress underlines Gloucester's growing back-row power, believes Carl Hogg.
Forwards coach Hogg hailed Morgan's hat-trick in Saturday's 46-20 London Welsh LV=Cup victory as the epitome of Gloucester's solid loose forward balance.
Morgan linked back up with England on Sunday night as Stuart Lancaster's squad prepare for Saturday's autumn international clash with South Africa.
Former Scotland flanker Hogg said Gloucester have battled hard to produce variety and depth in their back-row stocks – to cope with whatever injuries or international call-ups come their way.
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And he believes Gloucester will need to show all their growing back-row stability to grind to Premiership victory over Sale at Kingsholm on Saturday (kick-off 12pm).
Hogg explained: "Ben's been in great form for us and he's been improving all season really.
"I think everyone can see what his qualities are and why we wanted to bring him here in the first place.
"But we've been working hard with him on certain areas of his game, that he wants to improve too – and I think he's already made great strides on that front.
"We need that dynamic ball-carrying that catches the eye, but we also need the grittier stuff too.
"And so far we've managed to produce that.
"But we'll face another big test this weekend and the balance of our back-row will be important again.
"We've got to bring that variety, and the work-rate that is so crucial to our game.
"So whoever goes out there for us, that's got to be a given.
"And we've been keen to ensure that we can retain all the right elements, whichever personnel take the field.
"Whoever is involved, we'll work hard again to ensure we produce the right balance.
"The blend of the back-row is important of course, and our challenge has been to make sure we produce that, no matter which players are on the field.
"That's all part of the strength of the squad – we back all our players and we're quietly pleased with how we've progressed.
"But it will be a big contest in that area this weekend again, and we know we've got to be at the top of our game to succeed."
Gloucester have made no secret that one of Morgan's biggest challenges has been to add breakdown proficiency to his free-running power.
But the Cherry and Whites coaches are impressed with his growing ability at the tackle area.
And Hogg said the 23-year-old former Dursley and Scarlets number eight will be in buoyant mood this weekend – whoever he represents.
He continued: "It's for other people to make judgements about whether he should be with England or not, and I'm sure the coaches there will be looking at that again this week.
"Of course we want all our players who are in with a shout to thrive on the international stage.
"And there's plenty of them who will do that, whether in short or long term.
"But one thing we do know is that if Ben is back with us later in the week then he will come back with a smile on his face, excited by the challenges that face the club this week.
"We'll handle whatever happens with call-ups or otherwise, just as we always do.
"We have enough flexibility in the pattern of our week to react to whatever happens on that front, and still ensure we get through all the work we want to and at the necessary times.
"The one great thing at the moment is that the players love coming back here, they love getting back into the atmosphere and the set-up that we've got.
"It's contagious, and that's great news.
"It means players don't come back despondent about what they might have missed out on – they come back eager for work and to fight for further chances to play for Gloucester."
The Bryan Redpath backdrop will be lost on no one this weekend, least of all close friend Hogg.
But Hogg claimed it will not affect Gloucester's preparations.
He added: "This is a different place, a different squad, and the key thing for us is that it's a Premiership match at home, and we need to build on the momentum we've set so far this term.
"It's a vital game for us, because it's a home Premiership fixture, and that's all we can say about it, in all honesty."