Wayne Pivac has handed Jac Morgan a debut cap for Wales after the team’s misadventure against Ireland in Dublin in the opening round of the Six Nations.
The 22-year-old from Brynamman will feature at openside flanker against Scotland in Cardiff on Saturday.
Morgan has been a consistently strong performer for the Scarlets and then the Ospreys over the past two seasons.
But maybe some casual observers of the rugby scene in Wales are still catching up with his progress.
The following might fill in the blanks…
What’s his background?
Brought up in Brynamman, he’s a fluent Welsh speaker who went to Ysgol Dyffryn Aman.
He played for Cwmtwrch RFC from under-8s to under-16s before joining Amman United Youth. He spent time in the Scarlets academy before joining Aberavon, all the while pursuing an engineering apprenticeship with a Llansamlet-based company, Morganite Electrical Carbon Limited.
An instant hit at the Talbot Athletic Ground, he attracted the attention of the Scarlets once again and figured for them until last summer, when he joined the Ospreys.
Along the way he played at an U20 Junior World Championship with Wales and later captained them during an age-grade Six Nations.
Is there more?
In 2019, Morgan faced a huge career decision that could easily have resulted in the then Wizards flanker being lost to Welsh professional rugby.
Enjoying his work with Morganite, he felt he was with a supportive company who allowed him time off for training and he has described his boss as “brilliant”. Everything seemed to be in place for a career with them.
He was also conscious that rugby is a here today, gone tomorrow profession: one injury could change everything.
The back rower told WalesOnline back then: “I like my work outside the game, designing parts, dealing with customers and orders, and spending time drawing packages on a computer.
“But I’m also enjoying my rugby.
“It’s a difficult one.
“I know a playing career happens at only one point in your life, but one injury could end it all.
“It would be nice to have something to fall back on, which I have with the apprenticeship.”
A crossroads for him, then?
It was, but his then coach at Aberavon, Jason Hyatt, never had any doubt about how far he could go as a player.
He told WalesOnline of the then 19-year-old: “If he develops fully, there is every chance he’ll go all the way.
“You see these youngsters coming through and the top-end ones stand out a mile.
“Jac is one of those.”
Welsh rugby is fortunate he stuck at it, then?
Absolutely. His talent stood out a mile, with the youngster showcasing it in the U20 Six Nations in 2020 when he was captain.
When Wales lost 52-17 at home to Scotland, he was one of the few home players to emerge with credit. An observer said at the time: “Awful team performance, Jac Morgan was outstanding.”
His then coach at the Scarlets, Brad Mooar, had already picked up on the kid from the Amman Valley, saying after Morgan’s regional debut: “Remember the name because it’s going to be popping up more and more. He’s an outstanding young prospect and it looks like he has been doing it all his life.”
Both Mooar and Jason Hyatt.
Oh, yes. Up at Cwmtwrch RFC they were long ago aware they had a diamond at the club. For them, there was never any doubt that the polite and humble kid with a great attitude would go on to play for Wales.
“We could tell from the word go that he was a talent,” said Bertie Roberts, Morgan’s coach at Cwmtwrch from under-8s to under-16s.
“His leadership and his reading of the game were obvious.
“So was his attitude.
“He was so committed.
“While others might have been tempted to sample the odd drink as they got older, just to try it out, say, in the under-16s, Jac wasn’t among them. He’d always sip water or have an energy drink. That’s how he has got where he is today. He did everything right.”
What else should we know about him?
He’s a nice guy — “one of the nicest people you could wish to meet,” said Roberts.
Jason Hyatt, too, was impressed when Morgan and his dad came down to chat with him and Aberavon chairman Andrew Vaughan John about the possibility of joining the Wizards.
Morgan junior was only 18 at the time.
“Myself and Andrew met with Jac and his father and I spelled out how I felt we could help him develop,” said Hyatt.
“I’ve met dozens of young players in Jac’s position over the years, but he’s the only one who, when asked if he had any questions, replied by saying: ‘What can I do to help Aberavon improve?’
“For an 18-year-old boy to ask that was significant.
“He didn’t want to know how much game-time he’d have, he didn’t want to know who he was up against, he didn’t want to know what we could do for him in terms of finance.
“Jac’s only concern was how he could help Aberavon to get better.
“I remember coming out of the meeting and saying to AVJ: “He’s going to go far in the game.’
“He comes from a really nice family.
“Jac joined us and played over a thousand minutes of rugby until Christmas and was outstanding. His first game was against Merthyr away — a tough challenge but he ripped it up.
“He’s humble and grounded.
“If you met him, say, in 15 years’ time he’d still be the same guy.”
“He’s still in touch with our club,” said Bertie Roberts.
“We’ve recently opened a new clubhouse and Jac came down for a past-players day around three weeks ago. He gave up a couple of hours of his time and thoroughly enjoyed it.
“He’s not a boy who’ll forget his roots.
“He phoned me after the Wales team had been announced to face Scotland and said ‘I’ve got a ticket for you for Saturday’, all in Welsh because Welsh is our first language.
“I was going to the game, anyway, with my wife and told him that I appreciated it but for him to give it to one of his family members.
“It was a nice touch for him to do that. He didn’t have to do it.”
What can we expect from him at Test level?
“He’s an excellent player who’s good over the ball, a great defender and someone who will carry hard for you,” said Hyatt.
“But perhaps his most significant trait is his character.
“It’s exactly what a side needs.
“Potentially, I see him as a future Welsh captain but of course he first has to establish himself in the set-up.
“I have no doubt he will.”
Who was his childhood hero?
That would be Richie McCaw. “He had great success with the All Blacks as an openside throughout the years,” said Morgan. “He was my idol while I was growing up.”
What about the biggest influence on his career?
He told Rugby World: “My father, Rhodri, and my family. My father would take me down the field to play a bit of rugby, me and him; he’d take me to games and training. He and my family helped me get where I am now.”
Morgan deserves his debut cap.
Arguably he has been the top player in Welsh regional rugby this season.
The Test game will be a significant step up, but he is a player capable of making the jump.
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