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Lancaster backs Morgan to step up
Stuart Lancaster views Ben Morgan as a like-for-like replacement for Billy Vunipola as England's RBS 6 Nations title challenge enters a critical phase.
Vunipola 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.
The giant Saracens back row, who does not require surgery and should return in mid-April, will be replaced by Morgan in the starting XV for the visit of Warren Gatland's champions on March 9.
Morgan has already made a significant impact from the bench in this Six Nations and Lancaster believes he offers the same firepower as the bulldozing Vunipola.
"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. It's 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."
England have been hit by the loss of prop Dan Cole, out with a season-ending neck problem, and now Vunipola in successive matches.
Lancaster views their absence as an opportunity to build depth in his squad ahead of the 2015 World Cup on home soil.
"Collectively we've been unlucky this season with injuries," Lancaster said.
"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."