New Blues recruit Benji Marshall will start at fly-half when his side face the Hurricanes in Masterton on Saturday.
New Blues recruit Benji Marshall will start at fly-half in the Auckland-based franchise's warm-up match against the Hurricanes in Masterton on Saturday.
Blues boss Sir John Kirwan revealed that Marshall will play the first 40 minutes in the number 10 jersey and confirmed that not only had the rugby league convert surpassed all expectations so far since his switch, but that he was now being viewed principally as a fly-half for the Blues.
Marshall was one of several high-profile off-season recruits and although there are many enthusiasts that doubt he will make a successful transition to rugby, Kirwan is not one of them.
“There were a lot of unknowns when Benji hit town, and when I looked at him as a league player I thought 10 or 15,” Kirwan told Fairfax Media.
“He's really stepped into that 10 role. He has the personality of a 10, he takes control, likes to run the game-plan, and we've really concentrated on putting him there and he hasn't trained at 15 at all.”
When asked if Marshall's ability to adapt to his new code impressed him, Kirwan said: “I think all our hopes have come true and now he's just got to play.
“We pursued a player who we thought would deliver and he's done than tenfold. We just need to put him out there.
“He's really serious about this, he's done everything asked, he's done a lot of homework on the game and has been constantly improving.
“The next step is get him out there and the more time we can get him before the season starts the better.”
Kirwan confirmed Marshall will take on the goalkicking duties, as well as the tactical kicking responsibilities that comes with playing fly-half.
Marshall, who hasn't played rugby since he was a 17-year-old, said he was keen to finally take his learnings to a new level on the playing field.
“It's been pretty good,” said the 28-year-old.
“The good part is the coaching staff have been good with not putting too much pressure on me to be the man of the match or that sort of stuff.
“It's pretty much just about learning the reality of the game and what's going to happen, and getting a feel for playing.
“It's been a long time since I've played but you can do as much training with what you're going to expect but you don't rlealy know until you get to play. I'm looking forward to it.”
Blues: 15 Albert Nikoa, 14 Lolagi Visinia, 13 George Moala, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Benji Marshall, 9 Bryn Hall; 8 Peter Saili, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Kane Barrett, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Sam Prattley.
Replacements: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Tom McCartney, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 William Lloyd, 20 Tom Murday, 21 Jordan Manihera, 22 Chris Vui, 23 Jamison Gibson-Park, 24 Sonatane Takulua, 25 Baden Kerr, 26 Matt McGahan, 27 Marty Swart.