Benji nervous but excited by Blues challenge
October 30, 2013
Benji Marshall takes his first media questions as an official Blues player © Getty Images
Benji Marshall is feeling "pretty nervous to be honest" now he's left familiar surroundings to embark on a code switch in Super Rugby.
The former New Zealand rugby league skipper, who is returning to rugby union after more than a decade in the National Rugby League with Wests Tigers, is one of three newcomers in the Auckland-based Blues' 32-man squad for 2014 announced on Wednesday.
"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," Marshall said. "And I suppose that's also the exciting part about it. I'm coming in as the new kid. I'm just hoping I can bring what I know from what I've learned in rugby league, not only as a player, but as a person and a leader."
Whakatane-born Marshall's signing for the Blues has created a buzz among supporters, as was evident at the squad announcement breakfast in Auckland. The audience sat quietly as each player made his way to the stage until it was Marshall's turn, when a spontaneous round of applause broke out. Marshall, 28, said that was representative of the welcome he had received since his shift from Sydney.
Blues coach Sir John Kirwan had a positive report on his high-profile recruit's early progress.
"Everyone's really excited about his involvement," Kirwan said. "He's already been in the organisation and everyone is impressed with his professionalism and what he's going to bring so it's going to be great to see him grow into it."
Marshall last played rugby in his teens, where he operated at halfback, five-eighth and fullback. He said the biggest adjustment in his transition back would be getting used to the defensive line being closer. He believed his previous experience would be a help, but he also cited the example of Wallabies star Israel Folau as someone who had made a successful switch from scratch. "He had never played rugby before and he's adapted pretty well in a short of amount of time and I think I'm a pretty good learner," he said.
As for what position he would play for the Blues, Marshall said he would be happy where he was placed. He said the plan was probably to use him initially at fullback to allow him to get a feel for the game without too much responsibility in being the organiser. Down the track, a move to five-eighth is likely. For now, though, his focus was on putting himself in contention for selection.
"First and foremost, I have to make sure I'm in the right shape and doing the right things in training," he said. "I back myself that I can do that, but there are some great players in both those positions in this squad and they're going to be fighting hard for those spots."
The Scotland coach enters his first Six Nations with at least one familiar face to look to for inspiration - Joe Schmidt. He chats to Tom Hamilton
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton