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Page last updated at 13:51 GMT, Thursday, 16 April 2009 14:51 UK

In-form Morgan out to make a mark

By Charlie Henderson

Olly Morgan takes on James Hook of Ospreys in the EDF Cup semi-final
Morgan takes the game to Ospreys in Gloucester's 17-0 EDF Cup semi-final win

Olly Morgan has twin aims at Twickenham in the EDF final against Cardiff Blues.

The over-riding ambition is to help Gloucester finally win a trophy, but the full-back knows a good performance can help push his international claims.

He told BBC Sport: "We're desperate for the club to win silverware which is the most important thing for any player.

"Big finals don't come around often and when you play in them you want to show your ability and show you can take the big games as they come."

When the 24-year-old says the chance to shine in showpiece games does not happen often, he is to be taken at his word.

Yes, Gloucester have been centre stage in a number of finals in recent years, but look at the line-ups and you will find that Morgan was not in the cast.

When those of a Cherry and White leaning reel off recent finals and big games they have been involved in it is invariably accompanied by what went wrong and why they lost. For Morgan, the suffix is an injury.

Olly Morgan troops off with an injury for England against Ireland in 2007
Morgan lasted 30 minutes for England against Ireland before injury struck

Two years ago he was an 11th-hour replacement for the injured Iain Balshaw ahead of the Six Nations opener against Scotland. It is a rare occasion when he benefitted from injury.

His international career stalled when his second appearance, against Ireland, was cut short by a shoulder injury that ended his season and presaged a run of problems that have plagued him ever since.

Last season there was a dislocated shoulder, hamstring problems and a burst blood vessel in a quadriceps injury. This term a dead leg and a dislocated finger hit his international hopes after he started the season in fine form.

Morgan concedes to feeling cursed at times and is relieved to be talking rugby and not rehabilitation, although he is not one to ruminate on missed opportunities and maybes and is fully focused on the positives.

"It's the final of a Cup, it's massive with the Anglo-Welsh element and it's obviously really good to be in there," he added.

"And hopefully my first game in a final will be a successful one.

"Loads of players can look back on their careers and say injuries have come at the worst time and they've been unlucky, but at the end of the day you've got to get back fit, play well and get yourself back in the mix.

"I was grateful to get back into the Six Nations squad this year, and while I was disappointed not to play it was good to know the fact I'm playing well isn't going unnoticed.

"Delon Armitage's taken his chance and done very well and obviously he's in top spot at the moment, but there are full-backs like Nick Abendanon, Ben Foden and Mike Brown who are playing week-in, week-out and doing very well.

"The competition's there, but it's just about being in that position and taking your chance."

CONSISTENCY KEY TO MORGAN FORM
He has played 20 games for Gloucester so far this season, more than he has managed in any other campaign at the club
He has crossed for eight of his 19 club tries tries this term
The EDF Cup final will be his seventh start in succession, his best run of starts since late 2005

And after an injury-free run of games the like of which Morgan cannot remember, he is finally in a position to take his chance.

In fact, he is in pole position to face Argentina in home and away Tests in the summer with Armitage tipped to tour South Africa on Lions duty.

A Rolls Royce of a full-back, measuring his breaks from the back with stately precision and purring speed, Brian Ashton described Morgan as "the real thing" when he first graduated to the England set-up in 2006.

The debut that soon followed in Ashton's first game as head coach was his only previous appearance at Twickenham.

Morgan was struck by the "unbelievable experience" of HQ at that Anglo-Scottish clash and hopes a traditional 'Fortress Twickenham' atmosphere can help English representatives in another cross-border skirmish on Saturday.

On paper, Gloucester need all the help they can get.

The club's list of big-match defeats is well documented and is why a team that have been dubbed chokers are "desperate" to win.

In contrast, the Blues have been colossal in cup competitions boasting a 100% record from 11 matches this term and have beaten the last nine English sides they have come up against.

606: DEBATE
Cherry Wolf

Two wins in each of those runs came against Gloucester in the pool stages of the Heineken Cup and Morgan was struck by their physicality all over the park.

Those defeats hastened the English side's European exit while the Blues have continued to progress, most recently edging out Toulouse to reach the semi-finals while Morgan and co had their feet up at the weekend.

In addition, Gloucester will be without their skipper Mike Tindall and semi-final try-scorer Balshaw in the three-quarters.

But Morgan remains bullish: "It's obviously been a long season and we've had a few injuries that don't do the squad any favours as you want your full-strength team.

"People are tired, but not playing at the weekend maybe helped get guys a bit fresher and we've got great strength in depth."

And he is happy for Gloucester to be labelled outsiders. It sat well with them in the semi-finals against Ospreys, so why not now?

"I don't think anybody can put a stamp on why we've lost so many big matches," he said.

"A few years ago the inexperience was a key factor, but we can't use that excuse any more and that Ospreys semi-final was a big help in building confidence.

"We were underdogs and we came out 'nilling' them. That was a big statement and hopefully we can take that into the Cardiff game.

"They're obviously a very physical team who pride themselves on defence and have experience all over the place.

"So it's safe to say we're also going into this game as underdogs, but that can be seen as a positive as well."



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