'Benji Marshall can have Israel Folau-like impact'
December 19, 2013
Benji Marshall is getting accustomed to union in the Blues' pre-season training © Getty Images
Benji Marshall can make an Israel Folau-like impact on Super Rugby, former All Blacks centre Daryl Gibson, now assistant coach of New South Wales Waratahs, says.
Folau was the international rugby revelation of 2013, picking up the Australian Super Rugby Rookie of the Year award before equalling fellow dual international Lote Tuqiri's calendar-year try-scoring record for the Wallabies.
Folau and Marshall are set to line up as opposing fullbacks in the Waratahs' second pre-season trial, against the Blues at Allianz Stadium on February 7, and Gibson says "I reckon it'll probably be worth the admission alone seeing Benji's transition".
"I'm sure you'll get a lot of Wests Tigers supporters being interested in how he's going," Gibson told New Zealand Newswire on Thursday. "Then also to see Folau, two rugby league recruits going up against each other; it's very exciting."
Rarely has a player made a more spectacular entrance to rugby than the code-hopping Folau, but Gibson says it is foolish to think Marshall cannot make a similar mark after a decade mesmerising opposition defences in the National Rugby League.
"For the last three or four years, he's been one of the most outstanding rugby league players for New Zealand," Gibson said. "You never can say he can't do something. He's got a rugby background. He grew up in New Zealand with the game, so he's got an exciting challenge in front of him, I believe.
Benji Marshall will have less time in union to form play-making decisions, so, Daryl Gibson says, fullback will facilitate a smoother transition to the game © Getty Images
"He's joined a very young and talented Auckland team that's very similar to the Waratahs in that it's building its culture and building a team that can win."
Marshall won a premiership, a Rugby League World Cup, and the Golden Boot as the international rugby league player of the year in 2010, playing in the halves for Wests Tigers and the Kiwis, but Gibson believes he will revel as a fullback in union.
"They've probably got him right at fullback," Gibson said. "It's something we spoke a lot about with Israel, about where would he have the easiest transition into rugby union, and I think fullback will suit Benji.
"He will get a lot more time and space as opposed to playing at fly-half, first-receiver. He's going to have less time than what he would have in rugby league.
"Israel's really pointed the way with transitions. He's done phenomenally well in his first year of rugby union and within 10 games you could see he's got something.
"Now it's all in front in Benji and it's very exciting."
Benji Marshall is already a poster boy for the Blues and New Zealand Rugby © Getty Images