Ospreys back fly-half talent Matthew Morgan to make further strides
MATTHEW Morgan has been challenged to build on his autumn form and take another leap forward with the Ospreys over the next two months.
The fly-half with the dancing feet produced dominant displays against Leinster, Gloucester and the Blues while Dan Biggar was absent during November, impressing not because he shredded defences with his running but because he ran play with authority.
The Ospreys have long believed that if Morgan can demonstrate game-control, the key for any fly-half, he has the skills to impress at any level.
But talk is cheap and the challenge for the 20-year-old is to reaffirm the quality he showed before Christmas, starting in the LV= Cup encounter against the Dragons this evening (6.30pm).
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"We were pleased with Matthew in the autumn, not because people were writing about searing line-breaks and individual tries, but because we felt that he took a big step forward tactically," said Ospreys backs coach Gruff Rees.
"We saw that in one or two of the Rabo games and he will have further opportunities in the weeks ahead.
"It is important for Matthew to keep building."
Kahn Fotuali'i and Dan Biggar have pointed the way for the Ospreys at half-back this term, bossing games and keeping opponents under pressure.
The Ospreys coaches know the likes of Morgan and Rhys Webb can offer much in attack.
But under the microscope in the coming weeks will be their ability to orchestrate play.
"In most of our European games this term we've put sides under pressure and our half-backs have been in control tactically," said Rees.
"Now we have young players coming back into the group and we want them to seize the way we are playing here and take some of those messages on.
"They took a leap forward in the autumn. They have had to bide their time and it's not always easy, but hopefully they can step up to the mark."
Another player who hopes to make an impression over the next two months is Morgan Allen.
Coming on as an impact player, he has made people sit up and take notice, scattering defenders and acting as a target for the rest of his pack.
But the challenge in the coming games will be for the son of former Wales international Andy Allen to show he can offer a rampaging presence from the first whistle.
"I can't wait," he said.
"The tournament is a great chance for young players to play at this level and prove themselves. The Premiership is a good competition but you can't get better than playing senior rugby.
"It's gone quite well for me this season.
"I don't think I've disappointed when I have played. Hopefully, I can push on over the next couple of weeks and challenge for a place when the internationals get back."
The 6ft, 17st 4lb forward from Newport is heading back to his home region this weekend. "It does give it a bit of added spice," he said.
"I'm from Gwent, but I was lucky enough to be given a chance down here and I want to show why the Ospreys gave me that chance when I didn't have one up there.
"The main thing is I do my bit for the team.
"There are a lot of internationals at the Ospreys and I'm still young, with plenty of time. Hopefully, I'll push on in the next couple of weeks and see where things take me."
There is again a youthful look to the Ospreys line-up with full-back Jamie Murphy, wing Dafydd Howells and prop Daniel Suter handed their regional debuts.
Webb captains the side for the first time.
DRAGONS: H. Amos; M. Pewtner, A. Hughes, J. Dixon, M. Poole; S. Jones, J. Evans; N. Williams, S. Parry, D. Way, A. Jones, R. Sidoli, L. Evans (capt), I. Jones, N. Cudd. Reps: H. Gustafson, A. Coundley, T, Ryan, I. Nimmo, J. Groves, R. Downes, D. Evans, P. Leach.
OSPREYS: J. Murphy; T. Grabham, J. Spratt, B. John, D. Howells; M. Morgan, R. Webb (capt); M. Thomas, M. Dwyer, D. Suter, S. Williams, R. Hughes, J. Thomas, M. Allen, A. Ellis. Reps: D. Arhip, N. Smith, C. Johnstone, D. Baker, R. Dudley- Jones, T. Habberfield, S. Davies, N. Edwards.