From URC Turnover king to Wales supersub as the plaudits keep on coming for Jac Morgan
As the reigning BKT URC Turnover King, Wales supersub Jac Morgan is ideally qualified to comment on the toughest breakdown opponents in the league.
It just so happens they are waiting round the corner for his Ospreys, as they prepare to head out to South Africa.
Flanker Morgan – who made a big impact off the bench in Wales’ win over Argentina on the weekend – pulled off no fewer than 24 turnovers last season, pipping Stormers hooker Deon Fourie (23) to take the BKT United Rugby Championship trophy.
Accumulating that kind of haul means putting your head where others fear to tread and leaving yourself open to a real battering as opponents look to clear you out in a bid to get you off the ball.
So how does he prepare for that physically challenging role?
“We do a lot of work in training where we try and get in the best position possible, breaking it down into little detail, just getting used to that contact with people hitting you,” says the 22-year-old.
“It’s a case of trying to be quite selective in some of the rucks I hit. I won’t go chasing ones that aren’t quite as obvious as other ones. It’s picking and choosing which ones are best to go into.”
So what about the toughest breakdown opponents in the BKT URC? Who serves up the most taxing day at the office?
“The South African teams are some of the hardest,” he replies.
“You think there’s an opportunity for a jackal and the next thing they’ve offloaded the ball. So you are always second guessing what they are going to do.
“They get over the gainline quite a bit which makes it hard to go for a turnover then because they are always on top and having the momentum and their cleaners come on to it.
“Your knowledge gets better through analysing how they play because they have got a different style, a different brand of rugby. So you’ve got to prepare yourself as a team to how they play and look at where their strengths and weaknesses are and how we can change our game plan. The DHL Stormers were very physical and a very aggressive pack when we played them a few weeks ago.”
Morgan added: “Leinster are very good at it, as well, I find. Their cleaners are very quick into that breakdown, they have always got support nearby. They like to play a very quick game, so it’s hard to get onto that ball.”
Given Morgan’s prolific turnover tally in the BKT URC last season, it raised some eyebrows when Wales coach Wayne Pivac explained his omission from the squad for the summer tour of South Africa by saying he needed to improve his physicality over the ball.
“I was obviously pretty gutted, but it happens to a lot of people. It’s just part of the game and it’s a reason why you have to keep improving,” says the Ospreys openside.
“Wayne told me what I needed to work on and, in the summer, I went away and I tried to work on those areas and develop my game.
“I’ve tried to improve my attacking game and get more ball in hand. I’m always trying to develop, doing the little extras in training, the little drills around the jackal.”
Morgan is once again figuring prominently in the BKT URC stats after the first seven rounds of matches, showing further strings to his bow. He is in the top five for tackles, with 78, and has made the third most successful carries (22) among Welsh-qualified forwards, behind just his back row team-mate Morgan Morris and Dragons RFC hooker Bradley Roberts.
His excellent form was suitably rewarded as he was recalled by Wales for the autumn internationals.
“I was pretty chuffed when I was announced in the squad. It’s highly competitive and there are great players there. I’ve worked on what I needed to work on and I’ve tried to perform the best I can for the Ospreys.”
Having been named among the replacements for the Argentina game, he entered the fray after just 27 minutes following an injury to his regional team-mate Dan Lydiate.
He proceeded to confirm just what a quality player he is, denying the Pumas a seemingly certain try with one of his 16 tackles and carrying to great effect with his leg-drive and dynamism.
It was a performance described as “phenomenal” by former Wales and British & Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton, while ex-Welsh coach Warren Gatland labelled him “a man possessed”.
For trophy holder Morgan, the plaudits just keep rolling in.
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