Justin Marshall shuns ‘negative’ Premiership

Ospreys star Justin Marshall, who will spearhead the Welsh region’s bid for silverware against Leicester in Sunday’s EDF Energy Cup final at Twickenham, has labelled the Magners League a “better quality” competition than England’s Guinness Premiership.

And the former New Zealand star claims the Premiership is stifled as a spectacle due to a relegation factor which does not exist in Celtic rugby’s flagship event.

Marshall was a member of the Leeds Tykes side that was relegated last season. But he decided against a stint in National Division One and joined the Ospreys where he has forged an exciting half-back combination alongside gifted Wales prospect James Hook.

“I feel the Magners League is of a better quality in general than the Guinness Premiership because you haven’t got four, five or six teams battling it out for relegation, playing negatively,” he said.

“I played in a team [Leeds] that faced relegation and you couldn’t go out and express yourself for fear of making mistakes because ultimately it could cost you your livelihood – that is a big thing to be weighing on your shoulders.

“I feel because there is no relegation in the Magners League you are able to go out there and be confident and express yourself. I have enjoyed myself very much this year.

“Both competitions are good leagues and the Premiership is the toughest I’ve ever played in because week in, week out it is a grind.

“There are basically two competitions running in it, the top half and the bottom half.”

Marshall though, is under no illusions about the task facing an Ospreys side through to its first major final.

While Leicester might not have collected a trophy since they retained the Heineken Cup five years ago, Tigers will arrive at Twickenham hoping to complete stage one of an unprecedented trophy treble.

Leicester have also reached the Heineken Cup semi-finals and are on course for a home tie in the Premiership title play-offs, although such success has generated a packed fixture schedule. Sunday’s clash is the first of four games in 14 days.

Marshall added: “Leicester have had trophies in their cabinet in the past, so they are capable of winning finals.

“We are a team that has only been together four years and we have never been to a final.

“We haven’t been under that pressure and spotlight, whereas they have. They have got players and coaches who know how to win finals.

“I wouldn’t go as far to say we are dead-set underdogs, but Leicester have to have an advantage as a side that is proven, playing well and has been in this position before.

“But I think this side [Ospreys] has great potential. Our performances in Europe this season showed that, and I thought we were very, very unlucky not to reach the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.

“Twickenham is a great occasion for us and as players we are proud to be there. The players are excited to be involved in a big occasion with plenty to play for.”

The Ospreys are without the injured Gavin Henson – he is unlikely to play again this season – but a powerful line-up includes Wales internationals Hook, Shane Williams, Sonny Parker, Duncan Jones, Ryan Jones and Jonathan Thomas.

Martin Corry returns to lead Leicester after sitting out last Friday’s one-point Premiership win against Sale Sharks.

Corry will be joined by England colleagues Harry Ellis, George Chuter and Julian White, while Paul Burke – who has started three of Tigers’ EDF games this season – features at fly-half with Andy Goode on the bench.

Elsewhere, Italian Test prop Martin Castrogiovanni replaces the suspended Marcos Ayerza, and there is also an opportunity for highly-rated blindside flanker Tom Croft to impress.

Corry said: “The desperation to win trophies is just the same as it always was.

“To be involved in big occasions with the guys you work hard with throughout the ye

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