Holm Truths: Commitment issues? Morgan is happy to take the plunge
Six Nations overdrive and domestic bliss: Ben Morgan happily has his hands full.
The Gloucester number eight explains how England have no choice but to target the European crown.
BEN Morgan moved house on Saturday and went shopping for wedding rings on Sunday.
Perfect for the summer, but this was last weekend – his final free time before the Six Nations.
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Gloucester's number eight just cannot shoulder enough challenges.
The 23-year-old from Dursley will take on some of the world's best number eights in Europe's showpiece international contest.
Morgan will start with Johnnie Beattie against Scotland today, before lining up against Toby Faletau, Sergio Parisse, Jamie Heaslip and Louis Picamoles.
Just as he could have dodged the domesticity until after England duty, so Morgan could look past the individual number eight battle to the safety of the overall team game.
He cannot help it, though, he wants to stretch himself, beat the best – and embrace the toe-to-toe contest.
"That's exactly what you want to be playing against," said the former Scarlets, Dursley and Cinderford loose forward.
"You want to be tested in every game and to pit yourself against that calibre of opponent, that's how you improve and how you challenge yourself.
"For the team to progress you've got to be focused on your one-on-one battle and winning that.
"You've got to look at their strengths and weaknesses, but not dwell on it too much.
"Be aware of what they're capable of but equally focus on what you're good at.
"I don't think it's a daunting list, it's exciting.
"What a great stage to challenge yourself on, against some of the best in the world.
"I've got to link the backs and forwards, give the platform by breaking the gain-line.
"My goal is to be a dominant ball carrier and give a bit of direction to the team.
"I want to be the hardest worker out there, I want to be that sort of player.
"I know that this is only my first full season at the top level and I've got a lot of developing to do myself.
"It's no excuse but I don't believe I'm the finished article, I hope I'm still developing.
"Last year was my first senior season, and the year before that I was a development player who had a handful of games.
"With each game I feel more experienced.
"It takes a while for the body to adapt to the conditioning rigour, and the more and the longer I do it, the better all that will get."
Morgan believes neither the house move nor the ring shopping could have been postponed.
He will marry in July, so there was little time to waste on that front.
And recent flooding woe accelerated his move from Sandhurst to Cheltenham.
If the hovercrafts were the warning shot, the demise of his BMW X5 was the final straw.
"Parts of the village were cut off completely during the recent flooding," he continued.
"Our house was okay luckily, but the fire brigade were using hovercrafts to deliver essential supplies to some families.
"And then my fiancée drove the car into deep flood water and it was written off.
"They say moving house is one of the most stressful things you can do, but we just had to crack on."
Clearly a strong sense of duty is fast developing in the bulldozing Gloucester back-rower.
The amateur-days breakfast binges on the building site are long gone, and now Morgan is happily getting to grips with the finer points of back-row play.
He said: "There's always bad habits I've got to get rid of – in the lower leagues you can afford to be looser when you carry, a bit more upright when you tackle.
"Bodyweight in those days was a big advantage!
"But now everyone is on the same level, so fitness and fine-tuning make the difference.
"That couple of metres where you're not there: that's when someone breaks through.
"I feel as though I'm improving all the time, and the coaches at Gloucester have driven that.
"Paddy Anson has been brilliant, he has really changed things around.
"Nigel Davies' way really suits Gloucester too.
"Carl Hogg is very particular about the detail, and that really makes those small margins into big ones.
"He's a great man to go to for all that, he's on point with his detail – but at this level that's what makes you a better player.
"What's great about Carl is that he will give you his time, he'll give you whatever you need, to help you improve."
Morgan's lofty aspirations extend to the entire Six Nations.
Admitting England are targeting the title, his motoring metaphor indicated he still had that X5 on his mind.
He added: "We're going into this competition to win it, that's our yard-stick for success.
"But we don't want to go into this scraping through games.
"We showed what we're capable of against New Zealand, and that's the standard now.
"We've got to hit 100 miles an hour right from the start.
"We need top intensity, top gear."
CRASH COURSE IN REALITIES OF MODERN LIFE
GLOUCESTER’S wives and girlfriends will be banned from borrowing the cars at this rate.
First Ben Morgan’s fiancée fell foul of the floods, and the Kingsholm number eight’s BMW X5 paid the price.
And then Billy Twelvetrees’ other half crashed his car in the recent snow and ice.
Number eight Morgan spent a week without a car and was shocked by the reality the modern reliance on vehicles.
Playmaker Twelvetrees, meanwhile, had to catch a lift with Freddie Burns to his first pre-Six Nations camp last week, while his car was being repaired.
While neither man is apportioning any blame to their partners, Morgan did concede it has been a source of amusement.
“It’s just a coincidence, of course, but it’s been noted,” admitted the 23-year-old loose-forward.
“Joking aside, the important thing was that no one was hurt in either situation.
“Fortunately it didn’t take too long for me to sort it all out, but there was a week there without a car and it was weird.
“Freddie had to take Billy up to the England camp in Leeds, and I brought him back.”
England’s Six Nations warm-up training camp used to be held Portugal.
New boss Stuart Lancaster traded the Algarve for Costa Del Leeds last year, and the week at West Park RFC is now an England fixture.
Lancaster has purposely mimicked club culture at international level – and Morgan reckons that continues to pay huge dividend.
He continued: “Stuart has stripped everything away and tried to make the international set-up like the club environment.
“Last year in essence it was a case of making people feel as comfortable as possible. You get the best out of people when they are relaxed.
“It’s like being at the club, but with extra pressure and intensity.
“Last year I had a lot more to learn, and everything was completely fresh in terms of structures.
“There was a lot more going on in my head trying to adapt.
“But now we’re more settled and it’s a refresher to get back onto the same page rather than learning things from scratch.”