Benji Marshall's potential switch to rugby union could happen quickly enough to see him playing in the NPC this year.
Marshall's manager says his star client is genuine about a move to rugby and isn't using that to ramp up his rugby league deal with Wests Tigers.
Marshall is being courted by the Blues, with Fairfax Media revealing that coach Sir John Kirwan had sounded out the player's management about switching codes.
Marshall's manager Martin Tauber said the switch was a very real possibility and could even happen early enough to see him play NPC.
"I have had conversations with John (Kirwan, about that) and I'm waiting for John to come back from South Africa so we can progress the chat," Tauber told Radio Sport today.
Auckland are in the market for a first-five with Gareth Anscombe set for shoulder surgery once the Super Rugby season ends.
That would be invaluable for tuning Marshall's game ahead of next year's Super Rugby championship.
Marshall has given no indication to the Kiwis about playing in this year's Rugby League World Cup which intensifies speculation about his future.
Tauber said people shouldn't doubt Marshall's motives.
"Any move to rugby would be because of genuine, genuine interest," he said.
Tauber said Marshall's arrangement with the Tigers was that when the new media deal was done with the NRL there would be an upgrade to his contract.
"We have already had those discussions with the Wests Tigers and basically they have said if we don't reach agreement and he wants a new challenge, they would release him.
"He has loved playing with Wests Tigers, we have had another re-graded offer last Friday that we will consider in the next couple of weeks."
Tauber confirmed that was the Tigers best offer under salary cup restraints. But he also said Marshall was prepared to take a pay cut to play rugby union.
Tauber said third-party arrangements could significantly supplement any deal as they do with his league arrangement.
"We have spoken to a number of his sponsors who have business interests in New Zealand and they are standing by him," he said.
Asked why Marshall would consider switching codes at this late stage in his career, Tauber said: "Because he has always played the game and had an interest and maybe it's time for a change, time for a new challenge, time for something exciting and different.
"He's going away next week for a break to think about his future."
Marshall was in a New Zealand under-16s rugby squad before deciding his future lay in league.
He has strong family and friendship links in New Zealand which would help his transition.
One of those friends is Piri Weepu, the Blues and All Blacks halfback and that could blossom to a partnership at the Super Rugby franchise.
While Marshall has also been linked to an offer from the Waratahs, Tauber said the lure of the Olympics sevens was an added incentive to make a rugby move to New Zealand.
"No question (about that)," he said.
"To represent your country in any sport is such an accolade. I don't think there's a better touch of sevens player in this market.
"It's the desire to play for his country (that would bring him back to New Zealand). He has always said he would never play for another country."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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