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 , October 3
Bath vs Saracens19:45
Saturday , October 4
London Irish vs Northampton15:00
Harlequins vs London Welsh15:00
Gloucester vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , October 5
Sale vs Wasps14:00
Newcastle vs Exeter15:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Rugby Championship
Saturday , October 4
South Africa vs New Zealand16:05
Argentina vs Australia23:40
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , October 3
Connacht vs Cardiff Blues19:35
Ulster vs Edinburgh19:35
Zebre vs Ospreys19:35
Saturday , October 4
Leinster vs Munster18:30
Sunday , October 5
Benetton Treviso vs Glasgow14:00
Scarlets vs Newport Gwent D'gons16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , October 3
Oyonnax vs Toulon20:45
Saturday , October 4
Bordeaux-Begles vs Clermont Auvergne14:45
Racing Metro Paris vs Brive18:30
Bayonne vs Montpellier18:30
La Rochelle vs Lyon18:30
Castres vs Grenoble18:30
Toulouse vs Stade Francais20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , October 3
Pumas vs Blue Bulls15:00
Sharks vs Lions19:10
Saturday , October 4
Cheetahs vs Western Province14:00
Griquas vs Eastern Province Kings15:00
More Currie Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Wednesday, October 1
Hawkes Bay 36 - 14 WellingtonHawkes Bay vs Wellington Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 28
Wasps 35 - 18 NewcastleWasps vs Newcastle Report
Exeter 36 - 13 HarlequinsExeter vs Harlequins Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Newport Gwent D'gons 33 - 15 Benetton TrevisoNewport Gwent D
More Guinness PRO12 results
ITM Cup
Tasman 32 - 24 OtagoTasman vs Otago Report
Canterbury 26 - 28 SouthlandCanterbury vs Southland Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 27
Leicester 19 - 22 London IrishLeicester vs London Irish Report
Saracens 40 - 19 Sale SharksSaracens vs Sale Sharks Report
Northampton 31 - 24 BathNorthampton vs Bath Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
South Africa 28 - 10 AustraliaSouth Africa vs Australia Report
Argentina 13 - 34 New ZealandArgentina vs New Zealand Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Zebre 13 - 6 UlsterZebre vs Ulster Report
Munster 14 - 19 OspreysMunster vs Ospreys Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulon 40 - 17 MontpellierToulon vs Montpellier Report
Grenoble 27 - 25 Racing Metro ParisGrenoble vs Racing Metro Paris Report
Brive 34 - 24 Bordeaux-Begles
Oyonnax 8 - 19 Clermont Auvergne
Stade Francais 43 - 10 La Rochelle
Lyon 28 - 18 Castres
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Sharks 53 - 24 Eastern Province KingsSharks vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Griquas 8 - 46 LionsGriquas vs Lions Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Waikato 20 - 22 ManawatuWaikato vs Manawatu Report
North Harbour 28 - 25 Hawkes Bay
Counties Manukau 55 - 7 WellingtonCounties Manukau vs Wellington Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 26
London Welsh 10 - 46 GloucesterLondon Welsh vs Gloucester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens418
2Northampton416
3Bath415
4Exeter414
5Wasps411