TOM CROFT may have club loyalties to consider but he admits Gloucester No.8 Ben Morgan has done enough to earn a first shot at the England starting jersey in the upcoming Six Nations, writes Ryan Walters.

Since making his Red Rose debut in last year’s tournament, Morgan’s imperious ball-carrying skills have seen him march ahead of Croft’s Leicester Tigers team-mate Thomas Waldrom for a place at the back of the England scrum.

Tigers back row Croft – who was also named in head coach Stuart Lancaster’s squad – believes Morgan’s rise over the past 12 months more than warrants a starting berth.

Morgan, 23, followed the tour to South Africa in the summer with an impressive performance against the Springboks in the autumn internationals and staked his claim still further in the memorable 38-21 victory over New Zealand at Twickenham.

Now at the top of the list to start at No.8 in the opening game against Scotland on February 2, Morgan has all the attributes to make it his for the long term, according to Croft.

“Morgs is a superb ball carrier,” said Croft. “He carried exceptionally well against the teams in the last Six Nations and continued it in the autumn.

“I think you want to see a No.8 breaking forward, breaking tackles and creating a good platform for the side to go forward.”

Meanwhile, as the clock ticks down to the 2015 World Cup in England, Morgan insists it’s vital Lancaster’s new-look side continue to build momentum.

“We can’t afford to slip up at all; even losing one game can cost you the series,” the 23-year-old said.

Morgan, who helped Gloucestershire progress to the quarter finals of the Amlin Cup last week after defeating Bordeaux Begles 31-26 in France – thanks to 26 points from the boot of Freddie Burns – added: “The way we’ve been performing and developing over the last year with England has been absolutely brilliant. The Six Nations is a big tournament now, and last year we ended up runners-up, so we’ve got to pick up where we left off against New Zealand.

“You’ve got to go into the tournament thinking you can win it.”

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