Marshall nervous over code switch

Date published: October 30 2013

New Blues recruit Benji Marshall admitted he was nervous about making the transition from rugby league to union next year.

New Blues recruit Benji Marshall admitted he was nervous about making the transition from rugby league to union in next year's Super Rugby competition.

Marshall was officially unveiled as a Blues player when the squad for the 2014 season was announced, with the 28-year-old moving to the 15-man code after more than a decade with Wests Tigers in Australia's National Rugby League.

The playmaker, who has ambitions to represent the All Blacks, last played rugby union as a 16-year-old and said he faced major adjustments after so long in the NRL.

“I'm pretty nervous to be honest,” he told reporters.

“I've been in an environment for 11 years where I've sort of known what's going to happen week in, week out, whereas now there's a lot of unknowns. I suppose that's also the exciting part about it.

“I'm coming in as the new kid, just hoping I can bring what I know from what I've learnt in rugby league, not only as a player, but as a person and a leader.”

Marshall made his debut for the Tigers in 2003, going on to become the club's all-time leading point-scorer, and captained the New Zealand league team before signing for the Blues in August, saying he needed a new challenge.

Coach John Kirwan said he wanted to ease the newcomer back into the code and was likely to start him at full-back – a position which allows his team-mates to shoulder the defensive burden – before giving him more responsibility as fly-half.

“We're not going to rush Benji in, we're going to take our time, he's signed with us for a couple of years,” Kirwan told commercial radio.

“We think we'll start him at full-back… (but) he acts like a 10, he's a great leader and he knows what he wants, so he's got the personality to be a 10. Initially though, we want to get him some game time and see how he adjusts to it, and that will be at 15.”

While Marshall's defensive abilities have been questioned in the past, Kirwan said his attacking skills made him a “wild card” in the back-line that would be a huge asset for the Blues.

The Blues coach – who has added three World Cup winners to his roster for 2014 in the form of Jerome Kaino, Tony Woodcock and Ma'a Nonu – said he was looking for a major improvement on this year's performance, when the team finished 10th.

“At the end of the day this franchise needs success so hopefully we can make the playoffs and have a real good crack at it,” he said.