Bay fans steaming as rookie hooker gets Chiefs call

By Peter White

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The selection of unknown Hawke's Bay hooker Rhys Marshall in the Chiefs main squad, ahead of the three Bay of Plenty ITM Cup hookers, has caused more than a little consternation among Steamers fans.

Marshall has played no ITM Cup rugby and has linked with Taranaki for the 2013 season.

His claim to fame is his inclusion in the NZ Under-20 team last year where he sat on the bench for the main games behind No1 rake Nathan Harris.

Harris, who plays for Te Puke Sports, managed just a few games off the bench for Bay of Plenty in the ITM Cup, as the highly performed Dan Perrin and John Pareanga were preferred ahead of him.

One of the reasons given by Chiefs coach Dave Rennie in not picking Harris was that he did not get enough game time to show he could step up, otherwise he may have got the nod ahead of Marshall. But it also seems a tough call on the experienced Perrin and Pareanga that they too missed selection.

Rennie explained he wanted a young, up-and-coming hooker alongside former Samoan captain Mahonri Schwalger and he was not swayed by Harris having the higher ranking at NZ Under-20 level. "Whether he earned it is just one man's opinion," Rennie said.

"The [under] 20s coaches rated Nathan ahead of Rhys and we see it differently," he said. "From a selection point of view, we trawl through stats, watch the players play and view a lot of footage, we ask a lot of questions of other people if we don't know them so well, and find out about character. So we don't make any of those decisions lightly and we were pretty keen to get a young guy in ... and Rhys got the nod in the end.

"Nathan will be part of a group of young guys we are bringing in to training this week and for next week, so we will get a look at him.

"He didn't get to play a lot of ITM Cup himself, just a few games off the bench, so if he had that might have made a difference as we would have seen a lot more of him at that level," the coach of the Super rugby champions said.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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