Rookie rake's fast track to Super Rugby break

GLENN MCLEAN Z
Last updated 05:00 01/11/2012
Rhys Marshall
Photosport
NEW FACE: New Zealand under-20 hooker Rhys Marshall will be in Taranaki colours next year.

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Rookie Chiefs recruit Rhys Marshall's first taste of national provincial championship rugby will be in Taranaki colours next year.

The New Zealand under-20 rake was a surprise selection in coach Dave Rennie's Chiefs squad yesterday having never played a NPC match.

His season post the national age-group side was confined to turning out for the Hawke's Bay colts.

Born and bred in Taranaki, the son of former representative flanker Ian Marshall has been enrolled at an agricultural college in Hawke's Bay.

He was unavailable for comment yesterday as he was busy docking lambs in a remote part of the Bay where cellphone coverage was non-existent.

Tenderlink Taranaki coach Colin Cooper confirmed that Marshall had signed on for the next two seasons, a deal that was done during the season.

"He's New Zealand under-20, he's local and he ticked all the boxes for what we were looking for," he said.

"His dad and I played a lot of rugby together and if he's anything like his father, he's a guy you would go out and contract.

"Not many kids get the opportunity to get contracted into ITM without being proven and he's gone straight into Super Rugby, so it's good we got him contracted halfway through the year."

Marshall will learn the demands of Super Rugby in the Chiefs from two of the most experienced hookers in the competition, former All Black Hika Elliot and former Samoa captain and Taranaki rep Mahonri Schwalger.

With veteran Laurence Corlett signalling to Cooper that 2012 could be his last year, Taranaki were always going to need another hooker to share the duties with Timo Tutavaha.

"He's very quick and he's tough, he plays like a loose forward," Cooper said of Marshall.

"And he probably fits in the mould of a Dane Coles sort of player."

Cooper spent time watching Marshall during the national under-20 trials and was impressed with his workrate.

"We just have to work on his size, something that we had to do with Dane and he's gone all the way," he said.

Being with the Chiefs would help him do that, with Cooper happy that his new recruit would not have to juggle fulltime work outside of rugby.

"I've spoken to [Chiefs assistant coach] Tom Coventry about it, so we're working together to try and get Rhys in a condition so he can get out on the rugby stage," he said.

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