Steve Hansen urges patience with Marshall plan

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 22/03/2014
Benji Marshall
MARK KOLBE/ Getty
BENCH WARMER: Benji Marshall's only seen a small amount of game time for the Blues and is yet to start.

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There is little chance of Benji Marshall getting the Sonny Bill Williams treatment and being fast-tracked into the All Blacks.

When Williams, who like Marshall is a former Kiwis rugby league international, arrived in New Zealand from French club Toulon in 2010, he made just seven NPC appearances for Canterbury – five in a starter's jersey – before being selected for the All Blacks' end-of-season tour.

Since switching from the NRL this year, Marshall has started just one Super Rugby match, at fullback for the Blues against the Lions in Johannesburg. He has been named on the bench for a third time for tonight's match against the Cheetahs.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will want to see much more of Marshall before he can be considered a dual international, and the odds of him appearing in the three-test series against England in June appear slender.

"He's just a work in progress, they (the Blues) are well aware of that, and we all understand that we have to be patient," Hansen said.

"I thought he scored a great try the other day (against the Lions) and his running lines were very impressive. So some of his skills are automatically crossing over. But it will take a little bit of time for him to get comfortable with the game. We shouldn't expect too much."

Unlike Williams, who had the advantage of playing for Toulon in 2008-10, and was tagged for top honours as soon as he set foot here, Marshall needs to be patient.

"You never say never, but there is a lot of football to be played," Hansen cautiously stated when asked if Marshall was a chance for the England series. "You just have to wait and see, but the incumbents are pretty good too."

Marshall, reputed to have been signed by the Blues for around $600,000 a year, joined Super Rugby with a CV stacked with rugby league honours, but has made a muted start to his new career under Blues boss John Kirwan.

In the pre-season, Kirwan started Marshall at first five-eighth but got cold feet when the competition began.

Fullback appears to be his best spot, for the moment anyway, but with Charles Piutau preferred there this weekend he returns to the reserves.

Hansen says pushing Marshall into first-five too early would be unfair on everyone.

"It's too early to say what his best position is at the moment. He's got an incredibly difficult job to play, No 10 because, as we all know, that's the main computer of the team, and you have to have a very good understanding of the game and skill-set."

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This is despite Marshall playing at stand-off, the playmaker's position, for the majority of his career with the West Tigers and Kiwis.

There is little doubt Marshall can handle the pressure of top football; he won an NRL title in 2005, captained his country and was awarded the Golden Boot award for international player of the year.

However, the complexities of rugby mean the code transfer is likely to take time.

"Benji's coming from a different game, even though he played rugby until he was 17," Hansen added.

"The game has changed a lot since then, and the Blues are wisely giving him opportunities from fullback, where he can get comfortable and get an understanding of the game.

"It's a great place to learn about five-eighth play because, if you are not in the right place, they punish you at fullback."

- The Press

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