Marshall concedes start to back three rivals

EVAN PEGDEN
Last updated 05:00 11/03/2014
Tom Marshall
PETER DRURY/Fairfax NZ
BACK TO SPEED: Tom Marshall was exciting for the Crusaders and is working hard to get back to that form in training for the Chiefs.

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Tom Marshall played more minutes than any other Crusaders player last year and was arguably their most exciting performer.

So it was a big decision for the Tasman utility back to quit his Super Rugby team of three seasons and head to the Chiefs in a bid to play more in his preferred position of fullback under his former New Zealand Under-20 coach Dave Rennie.

He came off the bench in the first game against the Blues and then started all 17 games after that for the Crusaders in 2013 - three at fullback and 14 on the right wing.

Then in the national provincial championship he managed two starts at fullback for Tasman before moving to second five-eighth to help them out of a hole.

But whether it is fullback or wing he now just wants to play for the Chiefs.

"I'm not overly worried," said Marshall at yesterday's morning media session. "Fullback would probably be my preferred position but if I end up on the wing or anywhere I'd be happy."

Now he faces a challenge to force his way into the team after missing his new team's first two games through ruptured thumb ligaments.

His return, which is far from guaranteed this week, coincides with the return from injury also of Gareth Anscombe, who started more games at fullback for the Chiefs last season than anybody, and comes after Mils Muliaina, Tim Nanai-Williams and Asaeli Tikoirotuma have had the first two matches to establish themselves in the back three with rookie James Lowe as their back-up off the bench.

"Obviously it's pretty disappointing and pretty frustrating sitting on the sideline and watching the boys, but I guess the positive from that is that I can learn a little bit more about how the Chiefs play and get to watch a few games before having to rip into it," Marshall said.

"I'm planning on training today and hopefully get through the week and we'll see how we go from there."

Rennie listed Marshall in the "possible" category and the player himself said he was "hopeful" but in no hurry to rush back before he was 100 per cent, knowing it was a long season.

But Marshall also knows the longer he is out the longer he gives others to take their chances and establish themselves in the outside back positions.

"That's always the case when you're out injured - sitting on the sideline watching other guys perform really well - but I think that's good, it creates competition within the environment and that's part of the reason why [the Chiefs] are so successful."

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His thumb injury stemmed from an old national provincial championship injury, which had settled down after an injection but then one day in pre-season with the Chiefs, the same tendon ruptured, requiring immediate surgical repair using a finger tendon, and putting him out for eight weeks.

Marshall irritated a disc in his back while training about four weeks ago and that is his only issue now, although an injection last week has helped settle it down.

"I was balancing the rehab of two injuries for a while there but the back has only put me out one more week than I would have been anyway."

Marshall has found his Chiefs experience so far quite different to that with the Crusaders.

"They call it Chiefs Mana and it's been quite interesting learning about the region, because I typically haven't spent much if any time in Hamilton before so it was cool to get out and about throughout the community.

"The Chiefs do that quite a bit in pre-season; they get out there and explain to the boys what Chiefs Mana is all about so that's been quite a cool experience," he said.

- Waikato Times

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