League: Marshall to be replaced as Kiwis skipper

Benji Marshall leads the Kiwis out. Photo / Getty Images
Benji Marshall leads the Kiwis out. Photo / Getty Images

Benji Marshall has been stripped of the Kiwis captaincy in an effort to ensure the playmaker is at his best for this year's World Cup.

Marshall has been captain of the Kiwis since Nathan Cayless retired from internationals in 2009. The Tigers playmaker led the side to the Four Nations title in 2010 with a victory over Australia in the final but the Kiwis have won just one of their last six matches, including four straight defeats to Australia.

A new skipper will be named tomorrow morning, with Warrior captain Simon Mannering and Newcastle backrower Jeremy Smith leading contenders.

Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney spoke with Marshall this week and said it was a "very tough conversation''.

"Benji is an immensely proud New Zealander and his desire was to continue in the captaincy role,'' Kearney said. "Although this decision has been a difficult one, it has been made in the best interests of the team, and Benji will remain an integral part of the Kiwis going forward.''

NZRL's high performance manager Tony Kemp added: "Because of who he is, he carries a massive workload for rugby league in general.

"Our respect for him is immense and we appreciate that he's hurting now, but we believe this decision will ultimately lift some weight from Benji and give the Kiwis every opportunity to defend the Rugby League World Cup.''

The Kiwis take on Australia in the annual Anzac test in Canberra on April 19 before their World Cup defence in the UK and France in October and November.

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