Sport The new life of Dewi Morris, the Welshman whose family were abused because he played for England

10:41  02 august  2020
10:41  02 august  2020 Source:   walesonline.co.uk

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“If my parents had called me by first name of Colin rather than my middle name of Dewi, I don’t think I would have had the level of horrendous abuse I received from people in Wales.”

It’s 27 years on and Dewi Morris remains as amicable as ever as he addresses the vile treatment he and his family were subjected to from alleged Welsh supporters after he made his England debut and went on to line up against Wales.

Morris was born in Wales and brought up on a 75-acre sheep and dairy farm on the outskirts of Crickhowell to a Welsh father and English mother.

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It was only by chance he ended up in the north-west of England as an unheard of scrum-half.

Morris went to Crewe and Alsager College because he had been refused entry to South Glamorgan Institute (now Cardiff Met), which was a famed rugby academy for producing Welsh stars like Gareth Edwards and John Devereux in the amateur era, after failing one of his A-levels at Brecon High School.

Morris wanted to do sport at Alsager but that course was full so instead enrolled in business studies.

He took a job as production controller in a Warrington distillery after leaving, married and joined junior club Winnington Park, who he now coaches, at Northwich in Cheshire.

Three seasons later he moved on to Liverpool-St Helens and, in less than a year of first-class rugby, won selection for Lancashire, the North, England A and England.

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He and Strafe were at school together, which must be why we call Strafe by his surname as the teachers used to. We ' re all about the same age and live quite close to After dinner we played cards for a while but not going on for as long as we might because we were still quite tired after the journey.

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“I was just very lucky to be picked by England at a time when Wales neither knew nor wanted me,” said Morris.

Jonathan Callard, the Bassaleg schoolboy who went on to play full-back for England, was in the same Gwent Schools team as Morris.

But he didn’t have a name which attracted attention from bigots. It was a different story for Morris, he received it in spades.

It came to a head before the 1993 clash in Cardiff, when England were bidding to become the first team to win three consecutive European championship Grand Slams.

It’s a feat which has still never been achieved with Wales famously clinging on for an heroic backs against the wall and shock 10-9 triumph. You can read the extraordinary story of that match here.

“My parents received horrible letters and it was unfair on them. It hurt my family,” recalls Morris.

“The irony of it was I qualified for England through my mother, while Wales had Tony Copsey in their team.

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“Copsey didn’t have any Welsh qualifications apart from coming to Cardiff as a student and staying on – he even had a 'made in England' tattoo on his backside!

“I actually sang the Welsh anthem and God Save the Queen when we lined up for the match.

“I’d only gone to England to study because I’d failed to get into Cyncoed with South Glamorgan Institute. It wasn’t through choice but necessity.

“Sometimes I wish I had been known by first name of Colin. I’m sure, if I’d have been called Colin rather than Dewi there would have been a lot less focus on my Welsh family and we wouldn’t have had the same level of abuse.

“When I went to the Arms Park as a youngster to watch a match I’d sing the Welsh national anthem for dad, and the English one for me and my mother.

“But some people never seemed to understand and I got a lot of abuse for being a Welshman playing for England.”

Morris is smashing bloke off the pitch.

Known as ‘Monkey’ to his team-mates, he was aggressive and dynamic on it, using his 6ft and 14st frame to play like an extra forward from scrum-half with his socks around his ankles.

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He was capped 26 times by England, won three Grand Slams and played in two World Cups, as well as being Lions starting No.9 ahead of Wales star Robert Jones when the best of British and Irish rugby came close to conquering New Zealand in 1993.

Lions coach Sir Ian McGeechan sounded him out ahead of the successful 1997 tour of South Africa but Morris’ battered body was at the point of breaking down so he said no and retired.

“I was fortunate to play against the best scrum-halves in the world, in some of the best stadiums, and become a Lion,” said the now 56-year-old.

“That’s the pinnacle, as far as I’m concerned, apart from winning a Grand Slam or a World Cup.”

Morris also starred for Orrell and Sale Sharks in the English Premiership before combining business with working for Sky Sports as a rugby pundit.

A father of three daughters, he’s semi-retired and living in leafy Cheshire, still does a bit of commentary work and occasional after-dinner speaking.

Morris has been there and done it, so to speak, and has got the t-shirt.

He played in THAT match ... when the iconic Jonah Lomu went on the rampage with four tries as he swatted aside the England defence during a 45-29 World Cup semi-final victory in Cape Town 25 years ago.

“Jonah was easily the best player I faced – he was the first rock and roll rugby superstar,” laughs Morris.

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“He was the greatest single devastating force I have played against, ever, in that semi-final.”

Who was the best Welsh player he faced? No surprise there either, it was a 1993 Lions teammate.

“Scott Gibbs could do everything you wanted from a centre and more, and he was a great tourist as well!”

What about scrum-half? Who was Morris’ most difficult opponent?

“Australia captain Nick Farr Jones. I played against him for my first cap and he never stopped talking and organising his side. I learnt a lot from him.”

So what’s his final thought on being the Welshman who starred for England against Wales?

“When I first got called up by England, it didn’t feel like a choice for I was an unknown in Wales and may never have received international recognition,” replied Morris.

“England gave me the chance to play international rugby, which is all I wanted. I didn’t disinherit my Welshness one iota but I was proud to play for England on merit.

“After all, my mother was English. I was qualified for England. It’s not like today when players switch countries on residency or for the money.”

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