Being named as England Rugby’s “Man of the Series” for the 2014 QBE Internationals was a dazzling and deserved accolade for Ben Morgan, who returned to the starting team against France at Twickenham in August last year after fracturing his left leg seven months earlier. Stepping stones in the game had taken him to Dursley RFC at the age of five, to Cinderford, then to Merthyr, the Scarlets and into the England Elite Squad. His initial cap was off the bench in the 13-6 win over Scotland at Murrayfield in February 2012 and his first in the No. 8 jersey against Wales at Twickenham three weeks later.
He also played in the starting side in England’s outstanding 24-22 win over France in Paris and created the second try for Ben Foden near the posts with a rampaging break and supreme offload. Six days later, he won the man of the match award after producing an irrepressible display in the 30-9 victory over Ireland at Twickenham, started the first two summer Tests in 2012 against South Africa in Durban and Johannesburg and was a try-scorer when the midweek XV beat the South African Barbarians North 57-31 at Potchefstroom.
His maiden Test touchdown was against Argentina in the first Test at Salta in June 2013 and he scored a second try against the Pumas from a rampaging run at Twickenham the following autumn. Next up, he produced a powerful drive against the Springboks for his third try in November 2014, followed a fortnight later by two more in a man-of-the-match display in the 26-17 win over Australia.
Ben had returned to England’s starting side against South Africa a year earlier, the week after scoring his first try hat-trick at professional level in Gloucester’s 46-20 win over London Welsh in the LV= Cup match at Kingsholm.
Born in Bristol, he was schooled at Kingswood Primary, Katharine Lady Berkeley’s at Wotton-under-Edge and even figured alongside former England squad mate Charlie Sharples in the U14 and U15 sides at Dursley.
Ben said: “I played in every age group at Dursley, except one year when I had Osgood-Schlatter disease (a painful condition that affects the upper part of the shin bone), all the way through to the U17 side. Then I was in the colts before I had one season of men’s rugby.” He was a centre, full back and wing in his formative days and switched to No.8 when he was a young teen.
Away from the game he took a plumbing apprenticeship at City of Bristol College and the Scarlets became his fourth club in June 2009, following Dursley (1994-2007), Cinderford (2007-08) and Merthyr, known as the Ironmen (2008-09). A powerful ball-carrier from the base of the Scarlets’ scrummage, he has trimmed down from 20st 12lb, having lost two-and-a-half stone. Ben joined Gloucester on a three-year contract for 2012-13, and by early December he had played in 62 Premiership games and scored eight tries, including one in the 27-27 draw with Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park last October. He signed a new deal with Gloucester the following month.
He appeared off the bench in each of the first three matches in the 2014 RBS 6 Nations Championship, started against Wales and Italy and impressed when wearing the No.8 shirt in the first Test against New Zealand in Auckland in the summer of 2014 before going on to appear in all three matches against the All Blacks on the tour.
Ben has benefited from mentors Phil Sprague, a Dursley junior coach, Martin Fowler, the Merthyr senior coach, and Nigel Davies, then the Scarlets head coach. Along his career path, he played at U20 level for Gloucestershire and Cardiff Blues. Ben helped Gloucestershire to win the U20 County Championship in 2008 and 2009 and Llanelli to lift the SWALEC Cup in 2010 when he was the club’s young player of the year.
In 2011, he became the Scarlets Young Player of the Year and also won the supporters’ vote for a similar award. He took man of the match plaudits in both of their back-to-back Heineken Cup games against Benetton Treviso in December 2010 and a few months later picked up parallel awards in Magners League games against Treviso and Cardiff Blues.
Before his elevation to the England Senior Squad, Ben’s top memory was beating Yorkshire in the U20 final at Twickenham in May 2008 and past players he most admires are the late Jonah Lomu (“I thought he was incredible”) and Paul O’Connell (“A very clever player and strong leader”).
He reckons the most atmospheric arena where he has played is Perpignan and his CV includes scoring tries at Twickenham and the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. Snooker, golf and in general anything to do with sport are his hobbies, along with the cinema and eating out.
25 points – 5T
2012 S(R), It(R), W, F, I, SA (1,2), SA, NZ 2013 S, Arg (1,2), A(R), Arg(R), NZ(R) 2014 F(R) S(R), I(R), W, It, NZ (1,2,3R), NZ(R), SA(R), Sam, A 2015 F, I World Cup - Fj
Last updated: 4 December 2016