Matthew Morgan gets chance to show Ospreys what they've missed
CALL off the search party — Matthew Morgan is alive and well and poised to make a public appearance in Swansea on Sunday afternoon.
Some might have presumed the 5ft 8in, 11st 7lb youngster had been lost, so infrequently has he been spotted over the past two months.
He started for the Ospreys against Ulster in early September but since then he has had only 17 minutes of rugby for the region spread over three outings.
But with Dan Biggar away with Wales, Morgan is set to get an opportunity to remind people of his talent when Leinster visit the Liberty this weekend. He will be piloting an Ospreys side missing ten internationals, so he will need to be at his best.
“It will be a big chance for Matthew,” said the region’s backs coach Gruff Rees.
“He’s been relatively frustrated, having had a good summer.
“He had an opportunity against Ulster, but in a poor team performance things didn’t fire for him. Since then, he has had to sit back and watch a consistent team, with Daniel leading the way.
“Hopefully, he’s had time to reflect and take the right information on board and we’ll see something from him this week as an individual and, more importantly, within the context of a good team performance.”
Morgan’s game-breaking qualities are not in question. He is quick off the mark, skilful and can beat opponents with a step. He is also good at using the stab-kick as an attacking weapon.
When he emerged on the scene, he was lauded, the hype reaching a peak when his image was used to advertise a representative age-group game above the words “every legend has a beginning”.
Such a line was no doubt seen as a whizz idea by clever marketing sorts.
But what the super-brain who came up with it failed to take into account was the pressure it would load on to the shoulders of a teenager.
To Morgan’s credit, he has looked the part in flashes, no more so than against Connacht last year when he scored a superb try, leaving the home full-back for dead with a step before crossing under the posts.
But he remains a work in progress when it comes to exerting control, the essence of fly-half play and something the very best seem to pull off effortlessly.
Rees continued: “What can we expect from Matthew against Leinster? I’d hope for more control over our backs and forwards in terms of how we play the game sensibly.
“We have a power-based game in terms of how we try to get people on the ball and get ourselves going forward. Coupled with that, we have been kicking intelligently at the right times.
“So Matthew has to step up and show aspects of that within a team performance.
“But he needs to have the support of others.
“Where we’ve been better recently is that it hasn’t all been about Daniel making decisions and Daniel doing things. He’s has had people on his inside and outside talking to him early so he is able to see the full picture.
“Matthew needs that as much as any No. 10 in the world, especially now, with the turnover in the team. We need other players to step up.”
It could also be an important afternoon for Rhys Webb.
Capped by Wales at the end of last season’s Six Nations, he appeared set for a breakthrough on the strength of an explosive attacking game that had seen him make more clean breaks and beat more defenders than any other scrum-half in the Pro12 league last season.
But it hasn’t happened for Webb, a couple of sticky early-season displays letting Kahn Fotuali’i in to drive the region to five wins from six matches.
“Rhys is champing at the bit — he always is,” said Rees.
“He’s not a kid who likes sitting around. He’s a doer. That’s a big strength of Rhys’s personality. It’s about channelling it the right way. That’s the challenge I have on a weekly basis.
“For him, it’s about achieving a balance between being an exciting rugby talent and understanding that he has to be accurate and he has to run games.
“Rhys is no mug. He put himself in a great position towards the end of last season, starting in the Pro12 final in Dublin and having a good Australia tour. Things have slipped for him — we just have to get him back into a good groove as soon as possible. He has a part to play, but we have, too, as coaches and support staff.”