» Ack­er­mann says in-form Glouces­ter star can make World Cup squad,

Gloucestershire Echo - - SPORT - By ROBERT ILES

JO­HAN Ack­er­mann reck­ons Ben Mor­gan is play­ing as well now as when he was an Eng­land reg­u­lar.

The Glouces­ter num­ber eight is in a rich vein of form, scor­ing three tries in the last two Premier­ship games against the top two of Sara­cens and Ex­eter, with many ob­servers feel­ing he de­serves to be play­ing at in­ter­na­tional level again.

Mor­gan won 31 caps for Eng­land be­tween 2011 and 2015 and earned a re­call to the squad ahead of last year’s au­tumn in­ter­na­tion­als but didn’t play with first choice Billy Vu­nipola and Nathan Hughes since be­ing back avail­able to head coach Ed­die Jones.

In Ack­er­mann’s first sea­son at Glouces­ter, Mor­gan strug­gled for a reg­u­lar place in the side and the head coach has praised him for a trans­for­ma­tion that has seen him pro­duce the kind of per­for­mances he used to see him put in for Eng­land.

“Credit must first go to the player him­self be­cause when you didn’t have a sea­son like last sea­son when I just came in and didn’t see the best of Ben and he knows it,” said Ack­er­mann.

“There was ob­vi­ously com­pe­ti­tion from the loose for­wards we had and he had a lot of nig­gles.

“He recog­nised that first and recog­nised it’s go­ing to start with him by putting in the hard work.

“I saw him come back in pre-sea­son and train ex­tremely hard and I saw him phys­i­cally change his body by be­com­ing very fit and he reaps the re­wards so the credit to the player first.

“He’s al­ways been a qual­ity player. He’s al­ways got a calm­ness around him, he’s a clever player and he’s got lead­er­ship abil­i­ties, that’s why he’s been the cap­tain on a few oc­cas­sions.

“That all is mak­ing him be­lieve back in his abil­ity and qual­ity. There’s a lot of play­ers and staff mem­bers that must take credit, the nu­tri­tion­ists, the con­di­tion­ers, Timmy (Tay­lor, backs coach) and Dinger (Jonny Bell, de­fence coach) putting a lot of one on one work with the play­ers on stuff they can im­prove so it’s a col­lec­tive ef­fort.

“I’m just pleased for Ben that he’s back to when I saw him play­ing for Eng­land, play­ing at a high level and hope­fully it will con­tinue for us.”

Ack­er­mann feels that Mor­gan can still of­fer some­thing for Eng­land with the 2019 World Cup loom­ing.

Asked if there is any­thing more he can do to get a call-up, the South African said:

“First of all I think there’s al­ways some­thing to im­prove on if you’re bru­tally hon­est with your­self.

“But I don’t think there’s any more he can do in the sense of putting more pres­sure on him­self.

“The way he’s per­form­ing, the way he’s play­ing, he just needs to do the same things and the ar­eas he wants to im­prove, im­prove that.

“I also think it’s im­por­tant to stay fo­cused on the team per­for­mance be­cause if the team per­forms it helps you as an in­di­vid­ual and you never know.

“But if you start think­ing too far for­ward and you start wor­ry­ing about other things I think you lose fo­cus of the now and the next thing hap­pen­ing for Ben now is the next chal­lenge and that’s Bris­tol.

“As long as he per­forms he’ll put pres­sure on, peo­ple will see and peo­ple will talk and that’s out of his hands.

“Hope­fully if any­thing hap­pens at na­tional level at least they know they’ve got a player in good form and with the abil­ity to play at that level.

“He’s phys­i­cal, he’s got good ball car­ries, he’s a de­fen­sive leader so he un­der­stands de­fence very well and I think it’s all the at­tributes that are im­por­tant for in­ter­na­tional level.

“If you look at how im­por­tant Billy (Vu­nipola) is for Eng­land and get­ting them on the front foot and all the qual­i­ties he can bring, I think Ben can be in the same mould and ob­vi­ously adds to his own flavour to it as well.”

Pic­ture: Stu Forster/getty Im­ages

Ben Mor­gan cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing a try against Ex­eter

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