Tyler Morgan will make his World Cup debut against Fiji today, hoping that unlucky 13 does not strike again.
Wales’ well-chronicled injury curse has removed players like Leigh Halfpenny, Rhys Webb, Jonathan Davies, Scott Williams, Cory Allen and Hallam Amos from their World Cup plans.
And 20-year-old Newport Gwent Dragons centre Morgan will now takes his place in Wales’ midfield after being called into the squad just nine days ago.
Of the players who are absent, Davies would have worn the number 13 shirt had he not suffered a tournament-ending knee injury six months ago, while Allen had that number on his back when he damaged his hamstring against opening World Cup opponents Uruguay, then Williams took it for last Saturday’s Twickenham appointment with England and was carried off after suffering knee damage.
Now it is Morgan’s turn to pull on a jersey that has proved unlucky for too many.
“It’s a big opportunity for me,” Morgan said.
“It’s been really unfortunate for the boys, and the 13 jersey has had a curse, but it does open the door for me to try to get my name in there as a starter.
“I am playing in my own position of 13 on a massive stage with everyone watching. For the team, it’s really important to get another win after the England game. If we win, the pressure is on everyone else in the group.”
Morgan made his Wales debut in last month’s World Cup warm-up defeat against Ireland, but he failed to make head coach Warren Gatland’s original 31-man squad for the tournament.
“I had half an hour for the Dragons against Connacht in the PRO 12, then I was sat watching the Uruguay game, and a few days later I am starting against Fiji,” he added.
“It’s been mad and a quick turnaround.
“At the end of last season with the Dragons, I was looking forward to the Under-20s World Cup. This World Cup was at the back of my mind, but I never thought I would be involved, given the likes of Jon (Davies), Jamie (Roberts) and Scott (Williams).
“Before the Ireland game I was pretty nervous, but a lot of the boys have told me that the first cap is the worst and you just have to get it out of the way.”
As Wales’ youngest squad member, Morgan is current custodian of a traditional Welsh lovespoon – “I can’t say where it is, but it is locked away safely,” he said, while his World Cup adventure so far has also included meeting Tom Jones and David Hasselhoff, but today at the Millennium Stadium is all about serious business.
“Against Ireland, it was a younger back-line and we were a new side, but this is an experienced team and hopefully I can work well off that core and get some good opportunities,” he said.
“You saw against England that things just happened. Scotty found himself in space, and boys on the outside did, even if they had never played in the position with Lloyd (Williams) running down the wing. They put them in those positions, and hopefully it will be the same for me.”
M Morgan (Bristol); A Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), T Morgan (Newport Gwent Dragons), J Roberts (Harlequins), G North (Northampton); D Biggar (Ospreys), G Davies (Scarlets); G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), S Baldwin (Ospreys), T Francis (Exeter), B Davies (Wasps), A-W Jones (Ospreys), D Lydiate (Ospreys), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).
Talebula; Nagusa, Goneva, Botia, Tikoirotuma; Volavola, Kenatale; Ma’afu, Koto, Saulo, Cavubati, Nakarawa, Waqaniburoto, Qera, Talei.