Marshall keen to explore rugby options in Japan
Benji Marshall's participation at next year's Rugby League World Cup is under threat if he gets a release from his contract to play rugby in Japan.
Marshall's agent, Martin Tauber, is seeking a meeting with the Wests Tigers officials to discuss a way a sabbatical could be inserted in his current contract to allow him to play the 15-man code.
If that was to happen for Marshall next season it could rule him out of being a part of next year's World Cup defence in England and France.
The Kiwi captain's contract with the Tigers goes to 2015 and Tauber told the Sydney Morning Herald that he wants to talk to them about Marshall playing in Japan at the end of the 2013 NRL season.
"If we were going to do it, it would be for the 2013-2014 Japanese season," Tauber said. "It's something I want to discuss.
"The difficulty is he would need to get a release. He is contracted to 2015, so we would have to get permission from the club and the NRL."
The Kiwi's first game at the World Cup is against Samoa on October 26, with the final being on November 30. The Japanese Top League campaign begins the first week of September and the regular season ends in January.
For a Japanese club to spend a small fortune in bringing over Marshall they would want him for more than just a handful of games and they may require Marshall to skip the World Cup.
Japanese rugby clubs are notorious for having strict rules about what players can do before they join up with them.
Regularly they don't allow rugby players to play in New Zealand's NPC before going over and the NZRU had to overcome a number obstacles including insurance issues before Panasonic Wildcats allowed Sonny Bill Williams to play two tests for the All Blacks against Australia in August.
Marshall could be faced with the dilemma of choosing to play in a World Cup or picking up the biggest contract of his life
NZRL CEO Jim Doyle said the last time he spoke to Marshall there was no suggestion of him going to Japan. However, this was before Tauber going public on Marshall's desire to swap codes.
"The latest discussions we've had with Benji were in Townsville after the test match (on October 13)," Doyle said.
"He is very much committed to the World Cup, looking forward to being a part of the Kiwis campaign and driving towards everything that can be done to retain the trophy.
"There have been no discussions whatsoever about him not being available or looking to potentially pursue other activities."