Benji Marshall to start against Waratahs
February 4, 2014
John Kirwan is pleased with the Blues' pre-season progression © Getty Images
Blues coach John Kirwan is looking for better results from scrummaging this year, with teams having had a full season of exposure to the latest variations in the law.
Kirwan, speaking at Blues training on Tuesday before his side head to Sydney for a warm-up game with New South Wales Waratahs, said that he felt the fact referees would not be calling the ball in was a key change.
"I think you'll see more stability, and with the opposition not getting a heads up on when the ball's coming in I think it will be better for sure," he said.
Kirwan, meanwhile, confirmed that Benji Marshall would get another long stint in the game. Chris Noakes is returning from injury and needs some playing time, while Baden Kerr suffered a head knock and a hand injury against the Hurricanes, although an X-ray revealed there was no break.
Marshall needs time to feel comfortable in the side, and Kirwan will not be looking for significant areas of improvement in his game.
"I was impressed with him last week, he drove the football team around, he implemented the game plan we want and we want to re-see that again and to bring a little of himself, and it is important he just builds into that slowly," he said.
The All Blacks backs in the side, including Charles Piutau, Francis Saili and Frank Halai, will get some time in the game just to bring their contact exposure up a little. The tight forwards would not be involved.
Kirwan didn't think being back on Sydney soil, where he played his entire rugby league career, would be a distraction for Marshall. It was something he [Marshall] enjoyed, Kirwan said, and he immersed himself in it rather than shying away.
"They tell me there [will be] 30,000 people there. That's what we want, that's why you play. I'd say he will enjoy it more than worry about it," he said.
Scrum-half Piri Weepu was likely to appear in the Blues next warm-up game against the Chiefs, while All Blacks inside-centre Ma'a Nonu was likely to appear in the third or fourth round of the Super Rugby competition, the Blues ease him back into action.
Kirwan was delighted with the way the less experienced members of his squad stood up against the Hurricanes in Masterton and was especially pleased with George Moala's display at outside-centre.
Blues: Albert Nikoro; Frank Halai, George Moala, Jackson Willison, Tevita Li; Benji Marshall; Bryn Hall; Peter Saili, Luke Braid, Kane Barrett; Tom Donnelly, Liaki Moli; Angus Ta'avao, James Parsons, Sam Prattley. Replacements: Greg Pleasants-Tate, Tom McCartney, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, William Lloyd, Patrick Tuipulotu, Jordan Manihera, Brendon O'Connor, Sonatane Takulua, Chris Noakes, Simon Hickey, Francis Saili, Lolagi Visinia, Baden Kerr, Charles Piutau