Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Marshall's chances fading fast

Blues need to impose themselves and stay in fight to very end, says coach Kirwan.

Benji Marshall struggled with his kicking game against the Hurricanes. Photo / Getty Images
Benji Marshall struggled with his kicking game against the Hurricanes. Photo / Getty Images

Benji Marshall's inclusion in the Blues match-day squad is now hanging by a thread.

If Chris Noakes recovers from his concussion suffered in the lacklustre 39-20 defeat to the Hurricanes, which became alarmingly one-sided in the second half, former Kiwis captain Marshall will be on the outer - another big setback in his attempted switch from league to union.

All coach John Kirwan would say yesterday was that he has big decisions to make this week ahead of Friday's match against the Waratahs at Eden Park.

Simon Hickey, dropped for the match in Wellington after a tough time of it against the Brumbies in Canberra, is likely to be brought back to first-five, with Noakes on the reserves bench as cover, if fit.

Noakes failed a concussion test yesterday morning and will have another one today. Kirwan's other option at first-five is Ihaia West, a 22-year-old from Hawkes Bay who has been in the squad for only a week following Baden Kerr's withdrawal with broken fingers.

It is clear that Marshall, who replaced Noakes late in the first half and struggled with his kicking game and leadership of the backline, is no longer seen as an adequate first-five cover.

Kirwan would not be drawn on the player's immediate future, preferring to concentrate on what he wants his side to bring against the Waratahs who will include the dangerous attacking threat of Israel Folau at fullback.

Watch: Rugby Highlights: Hurricanes 39 Blues 20

The first thing they have to find is a desire to impose themselves. Against the Hurricanes they were far too passive, with Kirwan agreeing they conceded too easily.

"All of us need to look in the mirror," he said. "There are a couple of things not going our way and we're not staying in the fight. Anyone who puts the Blues jersey on needs to stay in the fight right to the very very end. I don't think that happened the other night.

"We were outplayed against the Brumbies but we were still trying our guts out at the death. I think the other night was the first time in a long time that I saw the team a little bit lost. Sometimes that is perceived as not having passion, I don't agree with that, but we need to get out and put some pride back into our performance."

Kirwan said the inclusion of halfback Piri Weepu was a possibility after his recent health scare and heart surgery.

- APNZ

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