Page: Benji Marshall shouldn't be at first-five

JACOB PAGE
Last updated 07:32 08/02/2014

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OPINION: Apparently, Benji Marshall's debut at No 10 for the Blues last weekend got a pass mark - I'm still sceptical.

The 28-year-old looks like he will try to make the first five-eighth position his own under coach John Kirwan but you have to wonder whether he has enough natural talent to transition so quickly into arguably the most demanding role on a rugby field.

The scribes who were at the pre-season match against the Hurricanes last weekend said Marshall generally ran or passed, refusing to put boot to ball for the majority of the game.

As a Blues fan, that would concern me.

Kicking is a vital part of any decent No 10's game and if Marshall is to lead the Blues back to the promised land of Super Rugby glory, he will need to have a kicking game to rival the likes of Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett, Marty Banks, Tom Taylor and Colin Slade.

While the Auckland-based franchise has a history of running backline pivots, thanks largely to Carlos Spencer, even he knew he had to kick sometimes.

The question remains whether Marshall can curb his rugby league instincts enough to make a smooth transition to rugby union while still maintaining the flair and X factor on attack that made him one of the best league players in the world.

Equally, there must be doubts as to whether he can match up defensively.

Teams are bound to target him with their big midfield runners given Marshall's flaky history in league on defence and recurring shoulder injuries.

Yes, he will have the support of Ma'a Nonu outside him but he can't rely on that.

Marshall can't be afforded time to settle in for a couple of reasons.

He is paid too much money to be cut too much slack and the Blues are in desperate need of a saviour - they don't have time to wait and have bet a lot of chips on this Marshall gamble paying off.

It's still a gamble I can't see paying off.

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- The Timaru Herald

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