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Morgan desperate to prove worth

England number eight Ben Morgan has vowed to "express his frustrations" when Wales visit Twickenham on March 9.

Morgan's place in the starting XV was seized by Billy Vunipola last season amid a combination of his own slump in form at Gloucester and his rival's ball-wrecking exploits at Saracens.

Fate has intervened to restore Morgan to England's back row, however, after Vunipola was ruled out of the remaining two rounds of the RBS 6 Nations with ankle ligament damage.

Having impressed during cameos from the bench against France and Scotland and in a more substantial outing in the 13-10 defeat of Ireland, the 25-year-old is determined to make his presence felt for 80 minutes.

"This is definitely an opportunity for me to express my frustrations of late," he said.

"People are picked because of their club form and I wasn't where I wanted to be at Gloucester, whereas Billy has been consistent.

"But I've always been told that it has been close between us. And to keep fighting.

"I've been trying to make the most of every opportunity and make as much of an impact as possible. With Billy's misfortune comes my fortune.

"You can't just go off on a one-man mission, but it will be good to express myself. It boils down to me being frustrated on the bench and putting in a performance."

Morgan, described by England head coach Stuart Lancaster as a "dead-set, like-for-like replacement" for Vunipola, has suffered through playing behind the underpowered tight five that has blighted Gloucester's season.

But he refuses to look beyond his own shortcomings to explain why he has struggled to make an impact in a challenging season at Kingsholm that reached its nadir when he was dropped against Perpignan in October.

"I can't use the front row or front five as the reason for me not playing well. That would be too easy," he said.

"Regardless of whether things are going right or wrong, you have still got to be able to stand out as an individual and do what you can do.

"I wanted something to change because I wasn't happy with the way things were.

"I'm not really sure what wasn't right. I wasn't playing that much, and that never helps.

"But I've managed to put things right and I've found it beneficial coming from club to country.

"The harder times tend to be the character-building times because you can easily be forgotten. I don't just want to fade away.

"It's important I fix it or I'll slip away. It was a case of working hard and taking my form with England back to Gloucester."

Gloucester's problems in the tight five are alien to England, who have been benefiting from the imperious form of locks Courtney Lawes and Joe Launchbury.

Morgan admires the work rate and athleticism of Lawes and Launchbury, players he believes define the role of the modern lock, and is aware of the explosive demands made of his own position.

"The bog-standard job of a second row used to be to catch your line-out and hit some rucks. That doesn't cut it any more," he said.

"These guys are right up there with their tackles, their dominant hits.

"First and foremost the role of the modern number eight is to get over the gain line with some big carries.

"An area I have also worked on is to make impact tackles where you can put the opposition on the back foot and really make a mess of their breakdown.

"We talk of it being an all-court game and you have got to have that as a forward."


From Belfast Telegraph