Gloucester Rugby: How 'explosive blob' Ben Morgan blossomed
FROM explosive blob to dynamite England star – Nigel Davies believes international rugby will only improve marauding number eight Ben Morgan.
Gloucester boss Davies has tipped 23-year-old loose forward Morgan to scale new heights this term – thanks to his international challenges with Stuart Lancaster's England squad.
Morgan and Gloucester team-mate Charlie Sharples were confirmed in England's autumn internationals squad yesterday, but there was no room for fly-half Freddie Burns in the party.
Former Gloucestershire Under-20s and Dursley back-rower Morgan blasted on to the international scene last term, in just his third year of top-flight rugby.
After an odyssey that took in Cinderford and Merthyr Tydfil, a talented but raw Morgan pitched up at Llanelli Scarlets in 2009 – in need of shedding a fair amount of weight.
Amateur and semi-professional rugby mixed with his day job on a building site meant Morgan had to work hard to hit fitness and conditioning standards.
Gloucester's rugby director Davies was the Scarlets boss at the time, and oversaw Morgan's gruelling fitness battle.
Now the duo have linked up again at Kingsholm – and Davies is excited about Morgan's future potential.
Davies explained: "When Ben first came to the Scarlets he was a blob, albeit a very explosive blob, but he's worked exceptionally hard and he's deserved everything he's got.
"It's all been positive from the moment he walked through the door at Parc y Scarlets, he's just worked extremely hard to get into the sort of shape he is now.
"He's come from absolutely nowhere, and to play international rugby, that was a big step up for him.
"Initially he took to it well, fell off I think a little towards the end of that exposure, but that's only natural in someone who has gone so far so quickly.
"And now he's re-finding himself, and he's put in some big performances for Gloucester, not only in his ball-carrying but the other things we've asked him to do over the years too, some of the dark arts, the contact work, the defence.
"He's put in some big shifts in those areas in the last couple of weeks, and that's what he needed to add to his game.
"So his game's growing and I think he's going to come back a stronger player, having experienced the last year of rugby, having seen what that's like."
While Morgan's fitness grind at Scarlets included unusual methods like wearing a snorkel on a treadmill, now he is being challenged to add much more to his game than simple power running.
Cherry and Whites boss Davies said international rugby forced Morgan to round out his approach, building extra acumen at the breakdown and defensively around the field.
And now he expects the barnstorming battering-ram to continue that development at Gloucester – and flourish for years to come with the Cherry and Whites.
Davies continued: "Ben also realises the work that he needs to do in other areas. At international rugby more than club rugby you will get found out if you don't have 15 men committed to doing their jobs, you can forget it.
"So Ben has had to step up internationally, he knows he has had to do that, and he has learned from that experience, and he's certainly brought that back to Gloucester.
"Looking at the statistics as well as reviewing our performances generally, Ben has really been improving at the tackle area and also in things like tackle-count.
"If he keeps adding that to his more obvious strengths, he's going to go far, and it's great to see."