Jac Morgan

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 10: Jac Morgan during a Wales training session at Stewart Melville's Rugby Club, on February 10, 2023, in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ross Parker/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Wales Skipper Jac Morgan Can Be The New Sam Warburton, Says Warren Gatland

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By Paul Jones

Warren Gatland has compared his new Wales captain Jac Morgan to former skipper Sam Warburton, ahead of the World Cup warm-up clash against England.

Gatland has turned to 23-year-old Morgan as the man to wear the armband at the Principality Stadium on Saturday and a positive leadership performance is likely to make him firm favourite to gain the job for the tournament in France.

The Ospreys forward has echoes of Warburton, insisted Gatland who memorably turned to the player, who would go on to lead the British Lions on two tours, when he was just 22 before the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.

Morgan is a former captain at Wales Under-20 level who will lead his country for the first time in a full international.

“He’s humble,” Gatland said of Morgan.

“He’s a good man. He’s really well respected in the squad. He doesn’t say a lot, a bit like Sam. He does his talking out there and leads by example.

“That’s a huge positive about him. We went to Turkey last week and took a referee out there with us to do some live stuff.

“One of the comments from him was that some of the interaction from Jac was really impressive. He was asking good, positive questions without being aggressive.

“That was probably an indication we’d made the right call.”

Morgan hails from the village of Cwmtwrch in the Swansea Valley, the same breeding ground as former Wales captain and coach Clive Rowlands, who died earlier this week at the age of 85.

“It means so much. I was fortunate enough to know Clive for years. I played with his grandson for Cwmtwrch juniors,” said Morgan.

“Every Sunday, Clive would be down watching us boys play and had a great effect on us all. He was such a role model and what he’s done for the village has been brilliant. It has been great to know him.

“I was pretty chuffed when Gats asked me to be captain. It’s a great honour.

“It’s a bit easier form me that there are quite a few boys here from the under-20s and there are plenty of other leaders among the experienced players who are helping out.”

For Morgan and Gatland the immediate focus is on England this Saturday, but the head coach has backed Wales to do “something pretty special” at the World Cup.

Wales face England in their opening tournament warm-up game after winning just two of the last 10 Tests.

A miserable Six Nations campaign produced a fifth-placed finish, while player contracts, financial issues throughout Welsh professional rugby and the threat of a players’ strike significantly compounded matters.

Wales have also dropped to ninth in World Rugby’s official rankings and seen talismanic figures like Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Rhys Webb all retire from international rugby since the end of last season.

Head coach Gatland, though, has delivered an upbeat message ahead of Wales’ preparation games against England home and away, plus South Africa, before a tough World Cup opener against Fiji in Bordeaux on September 10.

Asked if he relished Wales being written off, Gatland said: “Yeah. Continue to do it because it’s only going to make us stronger.

“I am really excited. I’m telling you this team will do something pretty special. I promise you now, we will surprise some people.

“I think if I look back on the Six Nations and all the things that were going on, I probably needed to let things unfold a bit and not be as direct or demanding as I might have normally been.

“The fact that things have settled down and a lot of new players have come in, the way that we’ve been so much more accountable for how we do things and demanding standards, that has been brilliant.

“As a group, we are in a good place. I promise you now, we will surprise some people.”

Wales’ training squad experienced punishing training camps in Switzerland and Turkey during the past month and Gatland will parade three news caps – Max Llewellyn, Corey Domachowski and Keiron Assiratti – among the starting line-up.

“I have got to say that I am incredibly impressed with this group of players in the last eight weeks,” Gatland added.

“They are in great shape physically. I couldn’t have asked for any more.

“They have been to the well and had to dig deep with everything we’ve put them through. They have been absolutely brilliant.

“We’ve had tough sessions, but come out the other side. The hardest thing is naming the 33 (final World Cup squad). There will be some real tough calls.”

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