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
Top 14
Friday , August 29
Clermont Auvergne vs MontpellierClermont Auvergne vs Montpellier Preview
Saturday , August 30
La Rochelle vs Toulouse14:45
Castres vs Bayonne18:30
Lyon vs Brive18:30
Oyonnax vs Stade Francais18:30
Grenoble vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulon20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , August 29
Pumas vs SharksPumas vs Sharks Preview
Saturday , August 30
Griquas vs Cheetahs15:00
Blue Bulls vs Western Province17:05
Eastern Province Kings vs Lions19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Friday , August 29
Wellington vs ManawatuWellington vs Manawatu Preview
Saturday , August 30
Counties Manukau vs Hawkes Bay14:35
Southland vs Otago17:35
North Harbour vs Waikato19:35
Sunday , August 31
Taranaki vs Bay Of Plenty14:35
Auckland vs Tasman16:35
Wednesday, September 3
Manawatu vs Bay Of Plenty19:35
Thursday , September 4
Otago vs Canterbury19:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Thursday , August 28
Canterbury 48 - 3 NorthlandCanterbury vs Northland Report
Wednesday, August 27
Waikato 17 - 46 TaranakiWaikato vs Taranaki Report
Sunday , August 24
Manawatu 7 - 35 AucklandManawatu vs Auckland Report
Bay Of Plenty 27 - 56 TasmanBay Of Plenty vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand 51 - 20 AustraliaNew Zealand vs Australia Report
Argentina 31 - 33 South AfricaArgentina vs South Africa Report
More Rugby Championship results
Top 14
Brive 6 - 21 Clermont AuvergneBrive vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Bayonne 38 - 12 Oyonnax
Bordeaux-Begles 30 - 21 Racing Metro Paris
Stade Francais 23 - 20 Lyon
Toulon 60 - 19 La Rochelle
Montpellier 20 - 17 GrenobleMontpellier vs Grenoble Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Blue Bulls 30 - 25 Eastern Province KingsBlue Bulls vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Western Province 27 - 14 LionsWestern Province vs Lions Report
Sharks 19 - 16 CheetahsSharks vs Cheetahs Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Northland 35 - 5 WellingtonNorthland vs Wellington Report
Counties Manukau 29 - 25 OtagoCounties Manukau vs Otago Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Friday , August 22
Toulouse 35 - 6 CastresToulouse vs Castres Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Pumas 33 - 15 GriquasPumas vs Griquas Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Waikato 27 - 58 CanterburyWaikato vs Canterbury Report
Hawkes Bay 29 - 26 TaranakiHawkes Bay vs Taranaki Report
Thursday , August 21
North Harbour 21 - 25 Southland
Sunday , August 17
Tasman 35 - 15 Hawkes BayTasman vs Hawkes Bay Report
Northland 23 - 28 Manawatu
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 16
Australia 12 - 12 New ZealandAustralia vs New Zealand Report
More Rugby Championship results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00