England star abused for his Welsh heritage
SPOTLIGHT: Dewi Morris, who was born in Wales, reflects on his family being abused by his own Welsh countrymen because he chose to play for England.
“If my parents had called me by my 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,” Morris told WalesOnline.
It’s 27 years on now and Morris, a dynamic scrumhalf in his playing days, looks back on how the Welsh never forgave him for playing for the old “enemy” – England,
Morris was born in Wales but qualified for England having an English mother.
Sadly (for Wales) he failed one of his A-levels at Brecon High school, was refused entry to the famed South Glamorgan institute which forced him to go to Crewe and Alsager College and the rest as they say in the classics – was history.
He intended on studying sport but due to the course being full enrolled instead in business studies leading to him taking a job as a production controller in a Warrington distillery.
He moved on to play for Winnington Park RFC in Northwich Cheshire where he now coaches today. After playing for them for three seasons he moved to Liverpool-St Helens which was a fortuitous move as he was almost immediately noticed and inside of a year had made the Lancashire, England A and England sides.
Morris remembers playing alongside Jonathan Callard (who later played fullback for England) in the same Gwent schools team but of course, he didn’t have a name that attracted attention from bigots.
It was a much different story for Morris.
He recalled that when England, who were bidding to become the first-ever team to win three consecutive European Championship Grand Slams, headed into Cardiff for their clash with Wales in 1993 things started to boil over and Morris’s family copped a lot of flak from the Welsh supporters.
“My parents received horrible letters and it was unfair on them. It hurt my family,” said Morris.
“The irony of it was I qualified for England through my mother, while Wales had Tony Copsey in their team.
“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 my 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, who was capped 26 times by England, won three Grand Slams and played in two World Cups. He was also the British and Irish Lions’ starting No.9 when they came close to conquering New Zealand in 1993.
He would have come on the 1997 Lions tour to SA but at the time he was recovering from a slew of injuries and after a long discussion with coach Ian McGeechan decided against it.
Morris regards having been selected and playing for the B&I Lions as the pinnacle of his career and puts it right up there with winning a Grand Slam or World Cup.
Talking about World Cups, he was also part of the England team that lost 29-45 to the All Blacks in the 1995 World Cup semifinal when Jonah Lomu famously scored four tries.
“Jonah was easily the best player I’ve ever faced – he was the first rock and roll rugby superstar,” said Morris.
He describes him (Lomu) as the most “devastating force” he has ever played against.
Recalling his playing days as a Welshman playing for England, Morris said: “When I first got called up by England, it didn’t feel like a choice as I was an unknown in Wales and may never have received international recognition.
“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 so I qualified for England. It’s not like today when players switch countries on residency or for the money.”