Crusaders fullback Marshall wary of Rebels star

MARSHALL PLAN: Tom Marshall at Crusaders training.
MARSHALL PLAN: Tom Marshall at Crusaders training.

Tom Marshall is understandably cautious about his rare outing in the No15 jersey being ruined by the mercurial Kurtley Beale.

Awarded his first start at fullback for the Crusaders since All Black Israel Dagg reclaimed the position against the Cheetahs on March 24, Marshall has several objectives to accomplish against the Rebels at Melbourne's AAMI Park tonight.

The 23-year-old is wary of being exposed by Beale's multipurpose offensive game and also of tumbling into the trick of attempting too much in his first start since the fourth-round.

Although the Rebels have lost talented Wallabies utility back James O'Connor with a lacerated kidney and ex-England international Danny Cipriani has returned home, they have had few problems in coaxing the best out of Beale in his return to first-five.

Beale, who switched to the Rebels from the Waratahs this season, possesses an unpredictable streak on attack. His ability to embarrass defenders with his sidestep or exploit space with unexpected kicks can prove a nightmare for unwary fullbacks.

"He gives their attack another dimension as a running first-five who is not afraid to take the ball to the line, so it will be interesting," Marshall said.

"He has got all the tricks, so you have to be aware of that.

"And I have to be mindful, myself, of not doing anything too over the top or too fancy. I just want to do my job well and do the little things right."

Unlike Cipriani, who at times looked like he wished he could vaporise himself rather than be involved in the defensive line before he was released mid-season, Beale is not averse to getting his shoulders and hands grubby.

Former Newcastle Knights representative Kupa Vuna and Mark Gerrard could potentially provide Marshall with challenges if he is isolated but whether the Rebels pack is capable of spitting out enough possession for the wings to be a constant threat is likely to be one of their major issues.

Despite their 41-35 defeat to the Bulls in Melbourne last weekend, the Rebels were far from despondent; it was labelled as their best display since joining the Super competition last year due to the way they opened up the South Africans with their link play, clinical handling and desire to keep the ball alive.

"When you play a team like the Rebels it's easy to kind of go off the game plan a little bit because I'm predicting it will be quite an open game," Marshall said.

"But we really want to just hold the ball and go through them, and if we do that the points will come."

Although he was chased by several franchises last season and there has been speculation he could be lured to the troubled Blues as they try to rebuild their roster, Marshall is contracted to the Crusaders until the end of next year.

He signed before Dagg's sensational performances at the World Cup, yet maintains he has few regrets.

"No. Even if I am not playing I can learn a lot from just watching and training from these sorts of players. This is one of the best teams in the world; there is no better place to learn. It is a bit frustrating sitting on the bench and not getting game-time as such but I have got a start this week. It is all good."

The Press