By Paul Jones
Morgan Morse is ready to show why he is one of the most exciting prospects in Welsh rugby when he takes on New Zealand on Saturday.
The Ospreys No.8 will be a key figure for Wales U20s when they begin their World Rugby U20 Championship campaign in South Africa.
Morse made his debut for this team when he was just 17 and this season he scored a try against Scotland in the Six Nations that was a perfect showcase of his startling blend of speed and power.
Picking up from a scrum, Morse was into full speed within two strides and then had the physical presence and elasticity to make the line, despite the attention of several defenders.
As the World Rugby U20 Championship prepares to get underway, I’ve had a look at why Cameron Winnett will be crucial to any Wales U20 success in his final games at this level. https://t.co/qxfIZsQ5HR
— Cardiff Rugby Life (@CardiffRugbyWeb) June 23, 2023
Wales’ youngsters will need that kind of ability and much more if they are to spring a surprise against the Baby Blacks in Paarl.
“When I first came into the squad, I kept myself to myself, but since last year I’ve come out of my shell and I’m enjoying it even more,” says Morse.
“I finished my exams last week and it has been a tough time learning new systems with the squad and content in school,” said Morse.
“My target next season is to break into the regional side after getting some good experience of playing with Swansea in the Indigo Premiership this season. There is great competition for a place in the Ospreys back row and they are all players I can learn from.
“I played a year young in the Dewar Shield and then I found myself playing for the Ospreys U18s one week and then Wales U20 against Swansea in a warm-up fixture the next. I guess it has always been that way for me in being the youngest in the group.
“I’ve learned from the older boys around me, and they’ve helped me to become more professional on and off the pitch. I like to get my hands on the ball as much as I can and make an impact to get the team on the front foot.
“I never take anything for granted because it means so much to be playing with my friends at this level. That’s why I try to ensure I always give everything I’ve got in every game.”
Media duties done and dusted for Wales U20 captain Ryan Woodman at Cape Town’s City Hall ahead of the U20 World Rugby Championship which kicks off on Saturday where Wales face @AllBlacks U20s#WelshRugby #CymruU20 pic.twitter.com/R9dUunjFEA
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏴 (@WelshRugbyUnion) June 21, 2023
It has been four years since the world’s best players at Under 20 level gathered for the World Rugby Junior Championships.
Since 2019, the COVID pandemic denied the players the chance to pit their wits against each other, but all that is about to change in South Africa this summer.
The last competition was in Argentina, where Dewi Lake’s Welsh side beat New Zealand 8-7 in a game played in such a torrential downpour the two teams had to head to the dressing rooms for safety while the storm passed.
A try by Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler and a penalty from Cai Evans eventually did the trick to earn Wales a place in the 5-8th place final against England.
They were beaten 45-26 in that contest, but nine players from that squad are currently in Warren Gatland’s extended World Cup training squad.
Meet Morgan Morse, the teenage Welsh rugby player everyone’s talking about behind the scenes https://t.co/V8DVZSdHJG
— WalesOnline Rugby (@WalesRugby) June 23, 2023
Ready to meet the Baby Blacks head on is Treorchy-born tight head prop Ellis Fackrell, who is one of nine Ospreys players in the matchday 23, who intends to make the most of his opportunity.
“We are as ready as we could ever be after five weeks of massive training. We’ve crammed in a lot of work into a short period of time, we all know our detail and we’re ready to go,” said Fackrell.
“We’re all excited about staring against New Zealand and it will be a great experience to just stand in front of them when they do the Haka. We know our scrum creaked a bit towards the end of the Six Nations, so we’ve worked a lot with Marc Breeze on that area.
“We’ll be looking to get some front-foot ball to allow our backs to rip it up out wide. What is exciting us all is playing at such a big tournament as this junior World Cup.
“Not a lot of people get the chance to do it and we’re treating it as a once in a lifetime opportunity. Playing with the boys you’ve grown up with through the age grade system makes it unbelievably special.”
Wales U20 v New Zealand U20, Paarl Gymnasium, Saturday 24 June
KO 3pm – live TV coverage on S4C
Wales: Cameron Winnett (Cardiff Rugby); Llien Morgan (Ospreys), Louie Hennessey (Bath Rugby), Bryn Bradley (Harlequins), Harri Houston (Ospreys); Dan Edwards (Ospreys), Archie Hughes (Scarlets); Dylan Kelleher-Griffiths (Dragons), Lewis Lloyd (Ospreys), Ellis Fackrell (Ospreys), Liam Edwards (Ospreys), Jonny Green (Harlequins), Ryan Woodman (Dragons, captain), Lucas De La Rua (Cardiff Rugby), Morgan Morse (Ospreys)
Replacements: Sam Scarfe (Dragons), Josh Morse (Scarlets), Louis Fletcher (Ospreys), Evan Hill (Ospreys), Seb Driscoll (Harlequins), Tom Florence (Ospreys), Harri Wilde (Cardiff Rugby), Harri Williams (Ampthill)