Destiny calls for new Wales captain Morgan

Destiny calls for new Wales captain Morgan

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Jac Morgan with weight on his back
Weight on his shoulders: Jac Morgan is a contender to captain Wales at the World Cup

It is almost destiny that has brought Jac Morgan to the Wales captaincy.

Born in the same village as one of the most respected and beloved of Wales leaders, this young and dynamic back-row has been earmarked for the armband from an early age.

Yet curiously it would be a word from a referee that would ultimately swing it.

Now his first game as skipper comes against England in Cardiff – just as it did for fellow Cwmtwrch native, Clive Rowlands, 60 years ago.

That he should lead Wales just days after Rowlands died adds even greater poignancy to his appointment.

“It means so much. I was fortunate enough to know Clive for years. I played with his grandson for Cwmtwrch juniors,” said 23-year-old Morgan.

“Every Sunday, he’d be down watching us boys play and had a great effect on us all. He was such a role model and what he’s done for the village has been brilliant. It has been great to know him.”

Hailing from the same school as Wales’ all-time leading try-scorer Shane Williams – Ysgol Dyffryn Aman – Morgan has been on a seemingly relentless rise since those days playing in the Amman Valley, brushing off disappointments like opponents on the pitch.

He led Wales at under-18s and 20s level but was forced to switch from Scarlets to Ospreys following a contract dispute. He duly led the United Rugby Championship for turnovers in his debut senior season.

His potential was immediately recognised by Mike Ruddock, Ospreys development director and the man who famously delivered a Grand Slam in 2005.

“Jac has the potential to just keep growing and improving. He is still a young fella and without realising it, he has fantastic leadership qualities already,” said Ruddock previously.

“He gives everything on the pitch and in training and earns respect. People will follow a guy like that.

“Things will come to him over time. If a coach puts his faith in him, I’m sure Jac can go to a completely new level.”

Warren Gatland has done just that, handing Morgan the first chance to stake a claim to the job at this year’s World Cup in France on only his 10th Test appearance.

Gatland made a similar move in 2011 by making Sam Warburton the youngest captain in World Cup history and sees parallels between the pair.

“Jac is a good man, he’s humble and though he doesn’t say a lot, a bit like Sam Warburton, he does his talking on the pitch and leads by example,” said the head coach.

“He’s really well respected in the squad and that’s a huge positive about him.”

Jac Morgan scores against Australia
Morgan scored four tries in his first six Tests for Wales

Fearless at the breakdown, Morgan has already started in all three positions across the back-row but is now regarded by Gatland as an out-and-out seven.

He also has an impressive scoring record to rival any back, four tries in his first six Tests, while Gatland recognises he is maturing as a leader.

“We went to Turkey last week and took a referee [Adam Jones] out there with us to do some live stuff,” he said.

“One of the comments from [Jones] was that the interaction from Jac was really impressive. He was asking good, positive questions without being aggressive. That was probably an indication that we’d made the right call.”

Captaincy has confirmed to Morgan that he made the right call himself four years ago. Aged 19 and with a promising and stable career before him as a mechanical engineer designing train parts, Morgan opted to follow his dream on the rugby pitch.

“I think I made the right decision,” he grinned.

“I was pretty chuffed when Gats asked me to be captain. It’s a great honour. It’s a bit easier form me that there are quite a few boys here from the under-20s and there are plenty of other leaders among the experienced players who are helping out.”

Morgan will not lead out Wales at the Principality Stadium on Saturday. That honour will be left to Leigh Halfpenny on his 100th cap. However there will be short odds on Morgan leading Wales to France this autumn.

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