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It's time for the Hurricanes to hand the keys to Aidan Morgan

By Ben Smith
(Photos by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images and Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

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The Hurricanes have made tough calls in the past about the direction of the franchise.

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Mark Hammett was bold enough to push Ma’a Nonu out of the building, one of the best midfielders of all-time. It didn’t work out all that well, but he had the guts to make the call and make a change.

When Beauden Barrett and Aaron Cruden were on the Hurricanes roster in 2011, they made the decision to say goodbye to Cruden and gave Barrett the job.

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Aotearoa Rugby Pod | Episode 11
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Aotearoa Rugby Pod | Episode 11

Barrett was 20-years-old when the Hurricanes made the call to invest in him with the starting role, along with TJ Perenara at halfback, where the pair could build experience together. The investment paid off five years later with the franchise’s first Super Rugby title in 2016.

The Hurricanes young first five Aidan Morgan is the same age now as Barrett was then.

Particularly at the first five position, using multiple players has never worked. Every winning Super Rugby team has had a dynamic 10 in charge and they start every week without question and without internal competition.

In recent years, the Highlanders had Lima Sopoaga, the Hurricanes had Beauden Barrett, the Chiefs had Aaron Cruden. They weren’t looking over their shoulders, they had the job.

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The clubs backed them early, stuck with them and titles came from 2012 to 2016 for those three teams.

Through this early 2010s era when all those three teams all won titles, the Crusaders had instability at the position in comparison. At the tail end of his career, Carter was oft injured then tried at 12 alongside Tom Taylor and Colin Slade. They were all rotated around and they didn’t get the ultimate reward despite coming close in two finals.

Only when they settled on the emerging young talent of Richie Mo’unga and stuck with him did they start to win titles again, his first coming at 22-years-old.

The history of Super Rugby shows that young dynamic 10s, not experienced first fives, lead teams to titles.

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Morgan has shown flashes of the same attributes all the previous title winning first fives have had in his limited action so far: a dynamic running game, speed and elusiveness, vision, and passing skills. He is the natural attacking talent needed to spark the best of a side.

Under pressure, Morgan has been exceptional at finding a way to keep the ball moving, whilst taking the closing defender out of the picture.

Despite Moana Pasifika making the right read on this screen by the Hurricanes, Morgan’s quick hands found Ruben Love with a chance on the right edge.

Unfortunately Love’s pass was forward but Morgan showed his deft touch on more than one occasion in his two starts against Moana Pasifika.

Receiving a pass rolling behind a forward pod, Morgan put flanker Reed Prinsep into a gap which was a try scoring opportunity had one more pass been made. On the stroke of halftime the exact same pattern led to a try for Wes Goosen.

His touch and passing skills are special, with an ability to ball play at the line and create opportunities for the players around him.

The zip in his running game makes him a threat for the defence to try and shut down and the pass can still be made in contact.

Morgan has the benefit of youthful athleticism that puts him in position to make things happen. His speed in support play is a huge asset which can see him cover large ground to be in position to take a support pass.

From this blindside raid, Morgan starts a good twenty metres behind wing Wes Goosen but is there off his shoulder to take a potential pass down the field. He works hard off-the- ball to maximise the broken field opportunities for his team.

After a Ruben Love line break, it was Morgan there in support to keep the play alive and then link with TJ Perenara.

His support play has already paid dividends for the Hurricanes, when he came off the bench in Dunedin to score the try that essentially won the game against the Highlanders.

It was a line out play that found space for Salesi Rayasi on the left edge, and it was Morgan backing up in support to take the decisive offload to score in the corner.

Morgan has had three starts this year, two against Moana Pasifika and one against the Reds. What he has shown in those matches is enough to take over the role full time.

It is quite clear that Aidan Morgan and Ruben Love are the future, but they should also be the present right now.

The worst thing the Hurricanes could do is waste these years from 20-to-25 years old where they have all their physical tools and youthful athleticism to give their best.

Organisations can get paralysed by indecision and fail to make the tough calls needed to get where they want to go.

If the Hurricanes simply want to win more games and score more points, Morgan is the 10 that needs to be on the park for the majority of the eighty minutes each week.

The faster the Hurricanes make this call, the sooner they will be back in title contention around a young dynamic 10 that has all the tools to succeed in Super Rugby.

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