Morgan chooses England over Wales
January 4, 2012
Scarlets No.8 Ben Morgan has opted to commit his international future to England © Getty Images
Scarlets No.8 Ben Morgan could be in line for an immediate England call-up after turning down the chance to play for Wales.
The 22-year-old was born in Bristol but would have qualified for Wales later this month on the three-year residency rule and had attracted interest from Warren Gatland. But after weighing up his options, Morgan declared his allegiance to England and he will immediately come into consideration for Six Nations selection.
England forwards coach Graham Rowntree revealed they had been watching Morgan for the last year.
"I'm delighted he's decided he wants to play for England. We've been looking at him a long time," Rowntree said. "We will be looking, without pre-empting selection, to get him involved very quickly.
"He's athletic, a big ball-carrying No.8 who is good at lots of things, a good lineout forward and good collision skills."
Morgan started his career at Dursley RFC in Gloucestershire but played the bulk of his career in Wales, including a stint with the Cardiff Blues Under-20s before signing for the Scarlets in May 2009. England will be without James Haskell for the Six Nations while Nick Easter's international future is up in the air as interim head coach Stuart Lancaster looks to put the emphasis on youth.
Morgan will now be one of those Lancaster considers strongly for selection at No.8, alongside Gloucester's Luke Narraway, Leicester's Thomas Waldrom and Harlequins' Chris Robshaw. Although Morgan plays in Wales that will not affect his availability for England because his contract pre-dates the Rugby Football Union's decision not to select players from outside of the Aviva Premiership.
Morgan said: "I feel privileged and honoured that both Wales and England have been following me. It has taken me a while to think over and discuss with my family before I came to the decision of where I'd like to focus my ambitions for the future.
"But I'm English, I grew up supporting England and as a youngster I always dreamt of playing for England one day. Ultimately, if given the opportunity at international level, I want to try and take things forward with my home country.
"If I am lucky to be named in any England squad then fantastic but if not then I will knuckle down and work hard to get myself in a position where I will be.
"Right now it's about focusing on my rugby and putting my all in to my career with the Scarlets with some big league and European fixtures ahead of us this month.
"I am thoroughly enjoying my rugby in West Wales and the opportunities, development and experience I've been handed over the past two seasons by the Scarlets is something I am very grateful for. I wouldn't even be talking about this if it hadn't been for them giving me a chance.
"(Scarlets coach) Nigel Davies is a great coach - he's been very honest with me and has a real vision behind player development and giving opportunities to progress players.
"I owe a lot of thanks to the first-class conditioning staff of Brad Harrington and Ryan Campbell, who have worked tirelessly for the first two years to get me into a position where I'm really competing on the field.
"Having Simon Easterby, Mark Jones and Vernon Cooper in the Scarlets set-up so fresh from playing is great as they bring a real energy to things. I want to carry on doing the best I can for Scarlets and anything beyond that will hopefully follow."
Davies, head of rugby at the Scarlets said: "While we've known interest has been shown in Ben by Wales as well as England following a run of strong and eye-catching performances for us; it's a personal decision - and nobody can question Ben for setting his sights on the pride and dream of playing for his home country of England.
"He has progressed well, worked hard and shown great commitment and determination to take his rugby career forward and has become a big and influential part of our forwards play. We fully support him on his decision and if he makes it into the England squad in the future, he will have our complete backing as do all our current internationals when they play for their country."
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