If Wayne Pivac wants to avoid having his inbox filled with multiple emails from ‘Disgusted of Brynamman’ on Tuesday, he might do well to think long and hard over his Wales back-row selection for the Six Nations.
Jac Morgan is only 21, yet he has performed as strongly as any Welsh back rower in the United Rugby Championship this season.
And with Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi and Josh Macleod set to miss the start and possibly much more of the Six Nations because of injuries, and James Botham also recovering from a bump, the expectation is that Morgan’s name will at least figure in deliberations for a place in Pivac’s squad for the championship, which he’ll announce early next week.
Certainly, there will be much hope on that front in the Amman Valley, from where Morgan hails.
Not that the player himself is taking anything for granted.
It isn’t his style.
Nor has Wales’ head coach made personal contact with him.
The New Zealander used a press conference in the autumn to indicate why Morgan and Tommy Reffell were not picked for the pre-Christmas Tests, saying they weren’t suited to the national team’s style yet.
But when asked if Pivac had been in touch of late, Morgan said: “No, he hasn’t. I haven’t heard anything.”
Pivac is a busy man — of course he is. But picking up a phone and personally explaining to one of the country’s brightest prospects what he might need to do to improve his rugby hardly takes an age.
Anyway, Morgan doesn’t stay away at night staring at the ceiling and wondering about Wales selection.
Again, it isn’t his style.
“I haven’t been thinking about it,” he said at the Ospreys’ press call ahead of the Swansea-based region’s Heineken Champions Cup date with Racing 92 on Saturday.
“I’ve been concentrating a lot on the Ospreys. I just want to excel and do my best here and do my job and play as well as I can. I’m really enjoying it at the minute. I’m fully focused on the Ospreys.
“I have improvements to make — I know that — and the coaches are trying to help me be the best I can be. “
To his credit, the youngster looking back at us over a Zoom call is seriously down the road to becoming a better player, with the openside making a conscious effort to widen his skill-set.
During his days with Wales U20s, he was known for his tackling and jackalling ability. Those areas are still his strongest points, but at the Scarlets last term there were signs of Morgan developing his carrying game and he has continued to work hard on that side of his game.
“The biggest compliment I could give him is that he’s done exactly what we thought he could do since he’s been here,” said Ospreys head coach Toby Booth.
“He has leadership in him, which is fantastic; he applies pressure over the ball; there’s also his work-rate. We have internal awards around effort and he’s been the recipient of a number of those.
“But probably the biggest area where he’s improved is his ball-carrying.
Jac Morgan breaks against Munster
(Image: Huw Evans Picture Agency)
“He takes defenders off their feet when he carries, and if we can add more of the attacking side to complement his defensive side, we’ll have a complete player.
“Jac has a bright future.”
Morgan joined the Ospreys from the Scarlets last summer as he was impressed by Booth’s vision for the club. He also wanted to learn off the likes of Justin Tipuric and Dan Lydiate..
Of the chance to work alongside fellow No. 7 Tipuric, he said: “It was one of the reasons I joined, to learn from the one of the best opensides in the world.
“It was an opportunity I was really looking forward to.
“All the senior players have been brilliant, with the way they analyse teams and bring their experience into it, helping us out as youngsters, where to look and what to do. We’ve had a couple of sessions and you can see how good they are.”
Morgan has long picked up tips from more experienced players to further his own development. At the Ospreys, he’ll watch how Tipuric and Lydiate do things; not so long ago he enjoyed seeing Sam Warburton in action and taking notes of how the then Wales captain used to dominate breakdowns.
But the player he looked up to most as a schoolboy wasn’t Welsh but a New Zealander.
“My favourite player growing up was Richie McCaw,” said Morgan.
“He had great success with the All Blacks as an openside throughout the years.
“He was my idol while I was growing up.”
This weekend, the Ospreys are playing Racing 92, a well-funded side that boasts a big pack and a stellar backline with Finn Russell at fly-half. Are the French the biggest challenge of Morgan’s career so far? “Yeah, they are,” he said. “You have stars in that team: Finn Russell at outside half, Virimi Vakatawa, Kurtley Beale.
“It’s probably the biggest game of my career. They say the European game is another level up from league standard, so it’ll be exciting to see how we’ll cope.”
The final question centred on whether a good display would help his Wales cause.
It was dead-batted to such effect Geoff Boycott circa 1977 would have applauded.
“I haven’t really thought about it,” said Morgan. “It’s the next job first. The aim is to try to put in a performance against Racing for the Ospreys. The main focus is to do what we’ve been doing in training. I don’t have any thoughts about anything else.”
Fair play: There are some young players who have been known to get ahead of themselves, but Morgan isn’t one.
“He’s humble and carries himself well in a squad environment,” Aberavon head coach Jason Hyatt once said of a player the Wizards nurtured. “He has all that it takes to go far in the game.”
Whether Pivac picks him or not next week, Morgan’s time will surely come in international rugby.
Quality always rises to the top.
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