All Blacks great Justin Marshall will be commentating the Rugby World Cup after all as he joins South Africa’s SuperSport’s coverage in France.
The 81-test veteran told the Otago Daily Times he was disappointed when Sky announced in March he was not part of the four-man squad heading over in September and October. The snub was first reported by the Herald’s Media Insider.
The four commentators that will be travelling as a part of the Sky team are Grant Nisbett, Mils Muliaina, Jeff Wilson and Kirstie Stanway.
Marshall called commentating on World Cups, which he had done in 2011 and 2015 the pinnacle of his profession, the Otago Daily Times reported.
Marshall was an ambassador for both Land Rover and Heineken at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, which Spark Sport had the television rights to. Along with legendary fellow commentators George Gregan and Martin Johnson, he participated in a Heineken television commercial prior to the competition.
“Rugby World Cups are what you call the game for, and particularly when you’re in a foreign country,” Marshall told the Otago Daily Times.
“It really challenges you, and that’s what I love. It’s what gets you out of bed.
“But decisions are made for various reasons which you don’t have any control of.”
As the only other “foreigners”, Marshall and George Gregan, his friend and former Wallaby rival, have been subsequently invited by SuperSport to join their commentary team in France.
Marshall has approached Sky about the offer, to which they were “really understanding ... and they have given me consent and support to go”, he told Otago Daily Times.
He was not able to travel with Sky’s team to France, but his contract was extended until the end of 2025, when Sky’s current rugby deal expires.
A popular speaker for occasions like dinners and lunches, Marshall serves as the “second commentator” to important callers like Nisbett.
On and off the field, Marshall has always had a lively personality.
After the All Blacks’ 32-22 defeat by Ireland in July of last year, he got into an argument with All Black Akira Ioane outside a Wellington bar. A video showed All Blacks winger Caleb Clarke blocking Marshall in what appeared to be an effort to defuse the situation, while many other All Blacks were blocking Ioane.
Major remarked at the time that “we’re obviously aware that Justin and Akira exchanged words” and All Blacks coach Ian Foster later claimed that the two had patched things up. Marshall then covered two All Blacks tests in South Africa as a commentator.
In 2014, in his early days as a Sky commentator, Marshall told the Herald’s Wynne Gray that at first he felt awkward commenting on old rivals, teammates or his coaches. However, he said, he tried to speak to as many of them as possible to discuss trends, laws and styles.
“I am still an apprentice at Sky, still learning and I seek feedback from everywhere including the public, who were only too willing to give me advice when I was a player, and I work hard at it all the time.
“I formulate opinions and try to make it constructive whether it is criticism or not. It is not the Bible, it is an opinion. People who take it as fact and call me an idiot and much worse, they miss the point. I make comments and open up avenues for others to voice their thoughts on your views.”