» Ackermann says in-form Gloucester star can make World Cup squad,
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.”
Ben Morgan celebrates after scoring a try against Exeter