Super Rugby
Kirwan hopes Marshall will become strong No.10
ESPN Staff
November 11, 2013
Benji Marshall fields questions from the media, Eden Park, New Zealand, October 30, 2013
Benji Marshall will start his Super Rugby career at fullback but coach John Kirwan hopes to move him into No. 10 © Getty Images

Benji Marshall can become the Blues' first choice five-eighth but is likely to play at fullback as he embraces rugby union after switching from rugby league, Sir John Kirwan says. Marshall's playmaking role was never questioned during his time with Wests Tigers in the National Rugby League, and Kirwan hopes the player will develop into a strong No.10 in Super Rugby although neither is sure where the star will cement his place in the line-up.

"I think 10 will be his best position," Kirwan told Rugby Heaven as New Zealand's Super Rugby squads gather and prepare to begin pre-season training in a fortnight. "But I don't really want to put any pressure on that. It's dependent on how we want to play. If we play him at 15, play to the middle of the field and open up both sides of the field, then he can come up and play a second-pivot game. We're just going to wait and see. We're thinking 15 to start with, then maybe looking at 10.

"We might be pleasantly surprised and he can turn out to be a great inside centre in rugby. We just don't know yet. If we start predicting that sort of stuff you put yourself in a bit of a cage. I think Benji feels he can be a 10, but he's not quite sure either. So starting him at 15 will give him an opportunity to settle into the sport."

Marshall suffered a horror final season with the Tigers, and Kirwan can sympathise after he made the transition from the 15-man game to league in his final years of his career. Kirwan endured similar experiences when he made the move to the Warriors in 1995 after collecting 63 caps for the All Blacks.

"I've been where he was at, and I understood fully where he was coming from," Kirwan said. "A change is as good as a holiday. Judging him on his last year would be wrong. He's restarting and has got this new challenge, so it's an exciting time for him. He's come here for the right reasons. He has high aspirations. He wants to become an All Black and play at the highest level. That's the reason why we've picked him, because he wants to be great at this game.

"He's like a kid in a toy shop at the moment. He's really excited about his new challenge. He's a little bit apprehensive, but he's excited about this new challenge. He's in really great shape mentally, given what he went through."

Marshall is still settling in to his new home at Auckland, but he is already recreating the star profile he enjoyed in Sydney - making appearances in television advertisements as well as promotional campaigns. But Kirwan is adamant that Marshall's signing was not a publicity stunt, and he is determined to see the 28-year-old become a rugby union success.

"He's a bit of a superstar over here, but that's not why we signed him," Kirwan told Rugby Heaven. "I've followed his career for some time and before we signed him I had a pretty good look at him. Our reason for signing him was because we really believe he can make a difference to our organisation on the field. The off-field stuff will take care of itself.

"Everyone has been really excited to have him here. He'll bring a real professional spirit to the place, teaching some of our young guys about preparation; we're hoping he'll lead by example."

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