Sarra Elgan Column
Time is not on Easter's side
September 26, 2012
ESPN's Sarra Elgan talks to Gloucester and England's Ben Morgan%]
Following Nick Easter's Man of the Match performance last weekend, Stuart Lancaster will surely now have to stand up and take notice of England's forgotten No.8.
He was omnipresent against Leicester, a goliath that the Tigers found very difficult to stop. He was prominent in Quins' terrific off-loading game in the first half and was at the forefront of their defensive effort after the break. In fairness, since his exclusion from all things red-rose he has played like a man on a mission and with a point to prove. However, it seems no matter how hard Easter knocks on Lancaster's door you get the feeling England's head coach will not be answering anytime soon.
Why? Well there is the small matter of Easter not being in the Elite Players Squad to start with. And there is of course his age. At 34, Easter is no spring chicken and the next Rugby World Cup is still three years away. This makes it the perfect time for Lancaster to start exposing his little chicks in the hope they will mature, grow and develop just in time for the 2015 tournament.
Which brings me nicely to the subject of the interview I did for ESPN's Premiership coverage at the weekend. He is a new kid on the block and a chick that you could argue hatched during last season's Six Nations. Plucked from obscurity while plying his trade in deep dark West Wales with the Scarlets - to say he made an impression on the international scene is a major understatement.
I am of course talking about Ben Morgan - a West Country boy born and bred who has now come home to roost. As of this season he is a Cherry and White and seemingly enjoying his time at Gloucester. He has turned out in every game for them so far - proving to be a very useful addition indeed to a pack who some thought lacked a little something last term.
I was deployed to challenge Ben to a game of snooker and while I am no Ronnie O'Sullivan I greeted the challenge with enthusiasm at least. I know Ben from his time in Wales where my husband coaches the Scarlets so I have traded a few pleasantries with him in the corridors of Parc y Scarlets before our meeting in Gloucester - so what can I tell you about him?
He is a lovely bloke, enthusiastic, diligent, hard-working and has a huge appetite for food - he has been known to polish off a whole loaf of bread with a whole chicken as a mid-morning snack - and the game. He is also clearly very competitive. He came armed for a date on the green baize with his own snooker cue (personalized may I add by a famous company who I had never heard of which greater highlighted my ignorance of all things snooker).
One would think Ben would be favourite to wear the No.8 jersey for England's opening November international against Fiji at Twickenham. He was outstanding last year but with Thomas Waldrom hot on his heels it could be a close call?
ESPN's Sarra Elgan chats to Harlequins' in-form No.8 Nick Easter%]
It must be pretty good being Lancaster at the moment. There is real competition for places within his squad and he has some big calls to make not just in the back row. Who does he play at 10? What will the centre partnership be? Who will form the back three? What's great for him and England is that a number of these players fighting for a place will not only be reaching their peak in time for the next World Cup but they will probably be around for the one after.
Time is not on Easter's side. He was the main topic of conversation at Welford road after Saturday's game where both Lancaster and his assistant Graham Rowntree were both present and I'd be very surprised if Easter's name wasn't mentioned in the car on their journey back down the M1.
Post-match Easter remained coy when I asked if he thought he'd done enough to impress England's watching coaches. "I haven't retired from international rugby put it that way," he said, "but I'm enjoying my rugby with Quins." It definitely seems that way, and for now, England's loss is most certainly Harlequins' gain.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Sarra Elgan is an ESPN roving reporter