Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Super Rugby: Benji happy to be on the bench

Switch from league proving harder than new Blues player expected.

Benji Marshall and Keven Mealamu miss the point in training. Photo / Richard Robinson
Benji Marshall and Keven Mealamu miss the point in training. Photo / Richard Robinson

Benji Marshall has been happy with only one of his three pre-season matches since his switch from league, so coach John Kirwan's decision to start him on the reserves bench against the Highlanders has come as a relief.

"We had a bit of a meeting and he sat down and told me what his plan was," Marshall said yesterday.

Video

"I was actually going to go to him and tell him I wasn't ready and not that confident. We came to a mutual decision that there was no rush."

The former Kiwi and Wests Tigers playmaker's struggles to learn the intricacies of first-five over the past four weeks have been well documented. He has started at No10 in all of the Blues' three pre-season losses, with a short run at fullback in the final match against the Chiefs in Rotorua giving him a boost.

He found the position suited his instinctive play - it has been hard to replicate that at No10, a pivotal role which requires a player to make several decisions in a split second.

He will cover both positions under the roof in Dunedin tomorrow night.

"No15 is probably easier in terms of not having to think too much and implement game plans. But I've only played 15 minutes there so I don't really know how to play there - I didn't train there the whole pre-season.

"I've played three 40-minute halves at 10 and I felt only one of them was any good. I learned something new in every trial game I played. I've still got a lot to learn and as much as I would love to start I don't think I'm the best man for that job at the moment."

Chris Noakes, who impressed last season at the Blues after his arrival from the Highlanders for his unflappable decision-making and knack for doing the right thing at the right time, will play first-five, with Charles Piutau named at fullback.

Piutau again played a limited part in training yesterday because of the knock to the knee he received against the Chiefs.

Steven Luatua. Photo / Richard Robinson
Steven Luatua. Photo / Richard Robinson

Baden Kerr, another option at No10, is unavailable with a broken left thumb.

Marshall, 28, said he was impressed with Noakes' knowledge of the game. "Just to be in the side, I'm pretty happy about that. Noakesy is probably the best man to play 10 for the side.

"I said to JK I'll do what's best for the team and me being on the bench, to not be exposed, to give me time to learn the game, is probably best."

Asked whether the progression to the 15-man game was harder than he had expected, Marshall said: "It's so much harder. I thought there would be a lot of similarities to league but nothing's similar about it. The technicalities of every facet of rugby union are so different."

George Moala, who has played at centre in all three pre-season matches, has been named on the left wing, with Jackson Willison getting the nod at centre.

Kirwan said the steadiness and experience of Willison was a big factor in the selection.

Halfback Piri Weepu, back after knee surgery, will start.

Kirwan said he was confident Weepu could last the whole game if required.

Loosehead prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi, a player who has impressed Kirwan in pre-season, earns his first start for the Blues in Tony Woodcock's absence.

- NZ Herald

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf01 at 22 Oct 2014 19:58:41 Processing Time: 263ms