The Cornish Pirates, who are on the Isles of Scilly this week participating in team building and engaging the community, also took the opportunity during their sea crossing from Penzance on Wednesday to announce that Chris Morgan will captain the team this season with Canadian international Matt Evans confirmed as vice-skipper, reports Pirates’ Media Officer Phil Westren.
Photo – l-r Gavin Cattle, Chris Morgan, Ian Davies, Matt Evans & Alan Paver
Based at St. Mary’s following a near perfect sailing aboard the passenger vessel “Scillonian III”, the squad ventured across to Tresco on Wednesday afternoon and St. Martin’s on Thursday morning, before their scheduled return to the mainland on Friday pm.
Thanks are extended to all who have so warmly welcomed the players and coaches on the islands, with appreciation also to those supporting the visit, including the Isles Of Scilly Steamship Company, the Adam Mallon Sports Fund, Tresco Estate, Nick George of the Mermaid Inn, the New Inn at Tresco, the Sevenstones Inn on St. Martin’s, plus the school at St. Mary’s where the Pirates are camping.
Cris Morgan has led the Cornish Pirates a number of times in the past, including during last season when club captain Gavin Cattle was injured. His appointment will be a popular one, likewise Matt’s.
Having first played rugby for Burnham-on-Sea at the age of eight, Chris later went to Millfield School and then to Bristol when at the same time he started a chemistry degree at Cardiff University.
He had played for England U18s (Clubs), in a side captained by ‘Pirate’ Paul Devlin, and a year later played for England Schools 18 Group alongside players the calibre of Olly Barkley and James Simpson-Daniel, as well as the late Nick Duncombe.
Just part way through his first year of ‘Uni’, Chris was offered a full-time contract with the ‘Shoguns’ through the then Bristol boss Dean Ryan. He decided to give up his studies and made his Premiership debut against Wasps in 2001/02, which was a tremendous experience playing alongside players such as Julian White, Gareth Archer and Augustin Pichot, to name but a few of the then Bristol stars.
In 2005/06, Chris, who had played against us when Bristol were in National One, had a loan spell with the Cornish Pirates, making his debut away to Bedford. He impressed then, and did similarly when he played for Newbury Blues for two years.
Chris was really excited about joining the Cornish Pirates, and in his first full season played a total of 33 games (29 in the league) for the club. Also, after our last game he was presented with ‘The President’s Cup’ by Robin Turner, the award going to the player who, in the opinion of the President, had been the most outstanding contributor on the field during the season.
At the start of the 2009-10 campaign Chris was in tremendous form before injuring his knee at the end of September. He thankfully recovered by Christmas, however, and was back in action when the Pirates walloped Plymouth Albion 46-7 at Camborne.
A winner of the ‘Edwin Bryant Trophy’ at the end of 2010-11, Chris was also awarded the ‘John Stirling Cup for Commitment’ the following year. It was well deserved, the word ‘commitment’ suitably worthy, and he also took his total games tally to 123.
Injury, unfortunately, restricted Chris to making just five appearances in 2012/13, so it was of no surprise that he was hungry for regular action again in 2013/14. Thankfully he stayed more or less fully fit and enjoyed an outstanding season in making a further 27 appearances for the club. Receiving due recognition at the end of season awards he also scooped up four trophies, winning the ‘Edwin Bryant Trophy’ and the ‘Travelling Supporters Player of the Year’ awards, besides being the adjudged ‘Player of the Year’ and the ‘Players’ Player of the Year’.
When it was confirmed that the injury suffered by Wes Davies at Nottingham in October was worse than at first thought, and that he was likely to be unavailable for some time, the Cornish Pirates reacted quickly to replenish their squad by signing Matt.
A Canadian international full-back, Matt has been a star performer for the ‘Canucks’ since making his debut in 2008 and he had just played in the Rugby World Cup when it was announced that he would be joining the Cornish Pirates after firstly competing for Canada in the Pan American Games rugby 7s competition held in Guadalajara, Mexico, where he and his team incidentally won gold.
Matt, who was brought up in Wiltshire – his mum is Welsh but his dad is proudly English and is a former captain of Salisbury and Dorset & Wiltshire – moved to Vancouver Island when he was aged 11, and he could have qualified for England, Wales or Canada, where he ultimately qualified on residency grounds and gained his first cap against Ireland in Limerick in November, 2008. It was during a time when he attended Hartpury College, where his mentor was former Wales assistant coach Allan Lewis, who predicted a bright future for him.
His second game was at the Millennium Stadium against Wales, when members of his family, a number of whom live in Cardiff, naturally had divided loyalties. Of no surprise, even Matt himself had ambitions to play for Wales when he was a boy, but that changed with his move to Canada and he has been immensely proud to represent the Canucks.
In 2009, playing at full-back and wing, his tally of four made him top try-scorer in the Churchill Cup, and in the 2010 competition he excelled once more. Playing at fly-half, in the final against England Saxons he scored the individual try of the game.
Mentioning Matt’s try-scoring ability, ahead of his arrival into Cornwall it was remembered that he had scored against the Pirates in the past. A first try was registered when playing for Newport Gwent Dragons in their 27-11 points pre-season friendly win at the Mennaye Field in August, 2010, and he then scored a brace when the Pirates lost a British & Irish Cup encounter 34-32 away to Newport in January, 2011. To have lost the game in Wales at the very end was bitterly disappointing, but it had been a encounter when Matt again confirmed that he was a polished and talented performer.
In his first three seasons with the Pirates Matt played in 53 games and scored 30 tries.