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Cambridge's Harry Morley is enjoying his second stint at Volac Park

Finding a picture of Harry Morley in action for Cambridge is a particularly tricky task.

It has nothing to do with the 27-year-old prop being camera shy or evasive, but more a sign of both his hard work and value to the team.

As a loose-head prop, he is often first in line to pack down and when the ball is in open play, more often than not buried at the bottom of a ruck having been the first to arrive at a breakdown.

Harry Morley is enjoying his second stint with Cambridge
Harry Morley is enjoying his second stint with Cambridge

It all illustrates just how big an impact Morley has made in his second stint at the club having spent time with Cambridge in 2018, and the changes have been noticeable.

“There is a lot more direction at the club at the moment, especially under Richie (Williams, director of rugby),” says Morley.

“I feel like it is really pushing on now, especially with who we’ve brought in this year. I think it could be a really good season.

Cambridge loose-head prop Harry Morley. Picture: Chris Fell
Cambridge loose-head prop Harry Morley. Picture: Chris Fell

“It just feels like the ambition of the club has changed. They want to keep progressing forward.

“It seemed like when I was [last] here, they were just happy to be in National One and stay in National One but now it seems like they want to push on and go higher really.”

Morley credits the ethos at Volac Park for his return – “I really enjoyed being around the boys, the atmosphere of the club... the spectators are brilliant” – and it has all helped the transition from being full time to part time.

Morley was part of the Northampton Saints senior academy as a youngster, studying at Moulton College, and then went to play for a year in Australia with Randwick.

On returning to the UK, he spent three years in the Championship with Nottingham and then a stint at Coventry before spending five months on loan at Cambridge.

He was an instant hit, and that led to Morley going back to the Championship with Jersey for the 2018/19 season, where he was a regular in the match-day squad, playing in 45 games over two campaigns.

After the Covid-19 pandemic cut the 2019/20 season short, he headed back to the mainland to sign for London Scottish, but did not get to play a game given the ongoing problems that rugby had because of the pandemic.

It led to Morley reassessing his options, and deciding to leave the full-time game, especially given the funding issues faced in the Championship and the gulf with the Premiership.

“It wasn’t the easiest decision I have ever made,” he says.

“I’ve always been in that environment since I left Moulton College.

“It was a bit of a shock for me to move from full time to part time.

“With the Championship the way it is at the moment, it’s not in the best place it’s ever been with how they’re supporting the players.

“It’s a shame because the Championship feels like it’s fading down a little bit and dying, which is a shame because it’s where all the development of English rugby comes from really.

“Championship rugby is massive for the development of any player: an academy player from Northampton coming on loan to play in the Championship will develop 10 times more than sitting watching them play and not playing.”

Having made the decision to leave the pro game, deciding what to do for a profession was the next big obstacle.

It was a bold move to leave the full-time ranks as you imagine that Morley would have been picked up by someone, but it would ultimately have led to entering the workplace even later in life.

“I have been lucky enough that I’ve been able to play Championship rugby for six years but it is tough, especially not knowing what I wanted to do and you don’t get that support that you can go, ‘I can do this, what do you want to do, do you want to do that?’.

“As soon as you finish, you’re left to really fend on your own and work out what you have to do. When I finished and went part time, I wondered ‘what am I actually going to do, what avenue of work am I going to go down?’.

“I had zero experience in pretty much anything so I just had my sports from Moulton College and, luckily enough, my dad is in construction so it was something I was interested in.

“For some boys I can see it being really hard if they don’t have an option.

“I did struggle but luckily enough I have my family that can guide me through. The last thing I really thought about was life after rugby.

“I can see it being hard for someone that has been in rugby a lot longer than I have to try to transition into part time and work life.”

Morley now works in construction management, and gives huge credit to the role that the club, and director of rugby Richie Williams in particular, have had in aiding the transition, particularly their understanding with finding the balance between demands on work and training.

It has certainly not taken off the edge on the pitch either, with Morley being an integral part of Cambridge’s rampant pack last season.

“We had a strong pack and Richie definitely knew what he wanted from his forwards and chose very well who he wanted in that pack from who he got in for last year,” explains Morley.

“It’s helped having Ben Brownlie, Billy (Walker), Frosty (Kieran Frost), especially in the front five, and George (Bretag-Norris) being there as the leader; everyone loves him.

“The maul just seemed to really develop more and more over the first half of the season, you just couldn’t stop us after that.

“It seems to be one of our main weapons of last season. With the boys we’ve kept and a few additions, I think we can definitely carry it on.”

They have been further boosted this summer.

After Ziana Alexis left midway through last season to move to France, it meant that Morley, Billy Walker and Henry Peck had to carry the workload.

But props Matt Collins and Seb Brownhill have joined during the off-season.

“It was tough, but having five props for this year will help with fatigue,” says Morley.

“It’s tough playing back-to-back games every week, playing 70 to 80 minutes and then having to do it the following week, and working on top of that.

“Having those two extra boys coming in will just help with match prep and even fitness-wise as well because we will be able to rotate more and basically get more performances out of us as a whole.”

As for expectations for the new campaign, they are fairly simple.

“We set a good standard last year, and I think we just want to keep improving on that,” adds Morley.

“We’ve been training hard, doing more conditioning work with Ben (Fitches, the strength and conditioning coach) and I just think overall we’re in a really good position to start the season.”

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