ENGLAND boss Stuart Lancaster has backed Ben Morgan to make the most of his Six Nations opportunity against champions Wales.
Lancaster assured the Gloucester number eight that he was a “like-for-like replacement” for the injured Billy Vunipola, who has been ruled out of the remaining two matches against Wales and Italy after damaging ankle ligaments in Saturday’s 13-10 victory over Ireland at Twickenham.
Morgan has already made a significant impact from the bench and Lancaster believes he will offer the same firepower as the bulldozing Vunipola when he starts against Warren Gatland’s men at Twickenham on March 9 (3pm).
“It's a dead set like-for-like replacement. This is a great opportunity for Ben,” England's head coach said.
“Billy has shown during the Six Nations that he has fantastic potential. Billy is a big loss because he gave us a lot of go forward.
“But we've seen from Ben's appearances off the bench that he also has the ability to do that.
“I know he's been itching for an opportunity and sometimes they happen for you. It's been created for him and I'm sure he'll ready against Wales.
“Ben went back to Gloucester to improve on his performances after the autumn. He was frustrated with himself.
“But he's worked hard off the field in the gym and is in good shape.
“His appearances off the bench off the back of that have been strong and helped him with his confidence. He's playing with confidence now.”
The loss of prop Dan Cole (neck) and now Vunipola in successive matches is a blow to England’s Six Nations campaign and Lancaster admits his side have been “unlucky”.
But giving players like Morgan and Dave Wilson at tighthead prop the chance to get international game time with the 2015 World Cup beckoning next year is vital for squad depth.
Lancaster added: “Collectively we've been unlucky this season with injuries.
“A lot of key players have picked up injuries that haven't been a couple of weeks, they've been a couple of months.
“That's a challenge but also as we've seen that presents great opportunities.
“To win a World Cup you need a 30-man squad with strength in depth across the board. You want two in every position, if not more.
“Our depth is being tested at the moment but it's a good thing for us in the long run that we get this chance to develop experience in the group.”