First year Taranaki pivot James Marshall has had to learn to adapt to a variety of changes since switching provincial bases from Tasman.
As well as having to adjust to the different systems Taranaki operate under, Marshall has also had to understand the idiosyncrasies of playing outside three different halfbacks - Chris Smylie, Brett Goodin and Jamison Gibson-Park.
"They're all pretty good quality, so that makes it a bit easier," he said. "They've all got different strengths and weaknesses and I think it doesn't change too much for me."
Recruited from Tasman in the off-season because of the likelihood of Beauden Barrett being selected in the All Blacks, Marshall has featured seven times for Taranaki, only missing the Auckland game after coach Colin Cooper decided to give him a rest.
"The more game time I've had the more confident I've become," he said.
"Being the [No] 10 at training instead of just filling in for a couple of minutes gives you a lot more clarity about what the team is trying to do and you naturally feel more confident the more you are in the saddle."
He knows full well the feelings Taranaki have towards Barrett and the regard he was held, but was determined to do as well as he could, not only in today's Ranfurly Shield defence against Manawatu but every time he was given the opportunity to start.
Though he might not have the all-round game Barrett possesses, and few do, Marshall has been a threat with ball in hand, has a developing kicking game and reads play extremely well.
Marshall has been impressed with the way coach Colin Cooper has handled his 34-man squad and the benefits that came with having depth. "You see it in the last 20 minutes in games. The bench come on and are fresh and the team doesn't lose anything; it makes a huge difference because we've won a lot of games in that period, I've felt."
Despite believing Taranaki had been "flat" after their epic 18-9 Shield win over Canterbury, Marshall was confident of an improved showing this afternoon.
"The boys have brought up the fact that they got pretty embarrassed by them last year," he said. "They turned up flat and got dealt to, so there is some determination to right that."
The former New Zealand sevens rep and Hurricanes wider training group member was hoping the work he has done on his kicking game would also pay off at Yarrow Stadium.
"Manawatu have not got too many noted kickers so I think it's an area we can put some pressure on them. I'll be looking to put it on myself to get us to the right end of the field."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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