Jac Morgan has been pivotal to Wales’ advance into the World Cup quarter-finals, leading from the front in a number of outstanding performances that have seen him dubbed his country’s very own Antoine Dupont.
Just as coach Warren Gatland picked Sam Warburton as a surprise younger skipper in 2011, so he named Morgan, 23, and hooker Dewi Lake, 24, as co-captains for France.
“It is a good opportunity. Both of them have a big future ahead of them,” Gatland said at the time.
While Lake has struggled to nail down a starting spot, Morgan will likely have been the first name on the teamsheet as Wales rebound from a dismal 12 months of results, rejuvenated under Gatland’s second tenure as head coach.
“There’s no open-side flanker in the world playing better than Wales’s Jac Morgan right now,” said none other than Warburton in a column for The Times newspaper.
“No other player in that position has been as influential in this World Cup as he has. He has simply had a sensational tournament so far, both as a captain and as a player, culminating in an outstanding performance in the stunning 40-6 victory over Australia last weekend.
“He is almost becoming a little Antoine Dupont-esque in how important he is to his country.”
Praise indeed from Warburton, who was famously red-carded in the 2011 World Cup semi-final against France for a tip tackle on Vincent Clerc. The French went on to win the game 9-8.
Assistant coach Jonathan Thomas, himself a former flanker who won 67 caps for Wales, played with a younger Warburton, but said it was “tough to compare individuals”.
“But there’s a work ethic there, there’s a physicality, a hunger to be the best. All those similarities, I think.”
Morgan, Thomas added, was like a hybrid of Warburton, known as a grafting, hard-tackling master of the breakdown who led from the front, and the more attacking-minded Justin Tipuric.
“Jac is physical, hard-working, near the sort of characteristic that Sam had. But as you’ve seen, he’s also got a good skill set, a bit like ‘Tips’.
“He’s got a good balance to his game. He’s obviously young and he’ll be learning and growing through his experience as well. And he’s a really humble kid. He would know he’s not a finished article at this stage but he’s got a really good balance to his game.”
Morgan produced one of the moments of the stunning 40-6 victory over Australia — in which he scored a try and also had an assist — as Wales went unbeaten to top their pool.
Picking up the ball in his own 22m area, he looked up and rather than taking contact booted it for a remarkable 50-20 to hand advantage back to his side.
Scrumhalf Gareth Davies said Morgan “can literally do it all. He’s an unbelievable player. He’s a great captain for us as well”.
Assistant coach Jonathan Humphreys called the flanker “phenomenal”.
“He’s one of these guys where nothing fazes him. He’s the same kid all the way through the week, and two minutes before the game, just the same kid. He’s brilliant.
“He had such an impact on the game, such an impact on the group. The captaincy has not changed him one iota. He’s a huge figure for us.”
© Agence France-Presse
Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP