Planet Rugby

Loose Pass

12th August 2013 10:18

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Benji Marshall close up

Marshall: Will he succeed?

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with the new clutch of cross-coders, a look ahead to the new European season and the scrum.

Benji Marshall is the latest name to join those of the rugby league elite giving the 'amateur' game a stab, potentially following Sonny Bill Williams and Israel Folau in making a huge splash in Super Rugby and beyond.

"Benji has the ability to break open a game; he's one of those players that does the right thing at the right time," said a clearly ecstatic Blues coach John Kirwan. There are any number of youtube hit reels to back him up.

Of course, the right thing at the right time in league is a very different concept to the right thing at the right time in union. Ask Sonny Bill, who took a long time both to find his true position and to master the arts of knowing when to offload, when to carry the ball like a loaf of bread, and when to crash it up the middle.

However, Williams, Marshall and for that matter Folau do have one thing in common that several others do not: they are prodigiously talented. There is no small number of times where a potentially bad decision has been rendered good merely by dint of their ability to do the extraordinary. But as time has gone on, both SBW and Folau have significantly improved their decision-making to the extent where the talent backs it up rather than replaces it.

For Marshall, a few hours spent quaffing orange juice with the other two would not go amiss. Both are classy rugby union players now, both having been humble enough to work and analyse themselves to death daily in order to make them fine players rather than loose cannons blessed with talent. Only if Marshall is able to do that will he prove a success.


Three weeks out from the Premiership, PRO12, a week out from the Top 14 and a couple of months from the Heineken Cup seasons and the battle lines are already being drawn.

How will London Irish react to being called a team where nobody can progress? What will Richard Cockerill say next? Can Newcastle bounce back and stay back?

Meanwhile in France, can Toulon finally take home the title? How will the new phalanx of foreigners settle into their new clubs?

In the Celtic zones: can a Scottish or Welsh region mount a serious Heineken Cup challenge? Will Ireland's dominance continue? And how will the Italian clubs fare this year in the PRO12?

Then in October, get a load of these fixtures: Ospreys v Leinster, Toulon v Cardiff Blues, Toulouse v Saracens, Clermont v Quins, Ulster v Leicester, Munster v Gloucester...the Heineken Cup is back and booming!

Which begs the biggest question of all hanging over it: how much will the money on offer from BT be abused by various self-interested parties to truly stuff up European club rugby...


Finally, not only the Rugby Championship, ITM Cup and Top 14 will kick off this weekend, but also the new scrum engagement sequence of 'crouch, bind, set', where the opposing props are set to bind onto each other's jerseys and hold the piece stable before the referee calls the 'set'.

Having watched one - admittedly only good amateur rather than professional - team go through familiarising themselves with it, there seems at the outset to be just as many problems keeping the hit straight as there were with the old sequence. Referees are going to have to watch very hard how props manipulate their binds as the engage happens.

But we'll trust them to do so. Perhaps more than we might trust them to get right what ought to be the easiest part of it all: making the ball go in straight. Too much to keep an eye on?

Loose Pass compiled by Richard Anderson

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 26
London Welsh vs Gloucester19:45
Saturday , September 27
Saracens vs Sale15:00
Leicester vs London Irish15:00
Northampton vs Bath15:15
Sunday , September 28
Exeter vs Harlequins14:00
Wasps vs Newcastle14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Rugby Championship
Saturday , September 27
South Africa vs Australia16:05
Argentina vs New Zealand23:10
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 26
Edinburgh vs Scarlets19:35
Leinster vs Cardiff Blues19:35
Glasgow vs Connacht19:35
Saturday , September 27
Zebre vs Ulster15:00
Munster vs Ospreys18:30
Sunday , September 28
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Benetton Treviso16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , September 27
Toulon vs Montpellier18:00
Stade Francais vs La Rochelle18:00
Bayonne vs Toulouse18:00
Brive vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Oyonnax vs Clermont Auvergne18:00
Lyon vs Castres18:00
Grenoble vs Racing Metro Paris18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 26
Cheetahs vs Blue Bulls19:10
Saturday , September 27
Sharks vs Eastern Province Kings14:00
Pumas vs Western Province15:00
Griquas vs Lions15:00
More Currie Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle 10 - 35 NorthamptonNewcastle vs Northampton Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Ospreys 62 - 13 EdinburghOspreys vs Edinburgh Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
ITM Cup
Otago 38 - 7 WaikatoOtago vs Waikato Report
Wellington 20 - 42 TasmanWellington vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 20
Sale 46 - 8 London WelshSale vs London Welsh Report
Harlequins 26 - 23 WaspsHarlequins vs Wasps Report
London Irish 32 - 36 SaracensLondon Irish vs Saracens Report
Bath 45 - 0 LeicesterBath vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Newport Gwent D'gons 13 - 33 GlasgowNewport Gwent D
Scarlets 43 - 0 Benetton TrevisoScarlets vs Benetton Treviso Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Racing Metro Paris 27 - 16 ToulouseRacing Metro Paris vs Toulouse Report
Grenoble 24 - 15 Bayonne
Montpellier 23 - 3 Stade FrancaisMontpellier vs Stade Francais Report
La Rochelle 26 - 29 Bordeaux-Begles
Clermont Auvergne 43 - 12 LyonClermont Auvergne vs Lyon Report
Castres 27 - 18 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Western Province 36 - 12 GriquasWestern Province vs Griquas Report
Blue Bulls 15 - 26 SharksBlue Bulls vs Sharks Report
Eastern Province Kings 22 - 37 CheetahsEastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Hawkes Bay 36 - 17 Bay Of Plenty
Manawatu 36 - 17 Southland
Auckland 32 - 7 North HarbourAuckland vs North Harbour Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 19
Gloucester 22 - 25 ExeterGloucester vs Exeter Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Munster 31 - 5 ZebreMunster vs Zebre Report
Cardiff Blues 9 - 26 UlsterCardiff Blues vs Ulster Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath314
2Saracens313
3Northampton311
4Exeter310
5Leicester Tigers39