Blues looking to bring Benji Marshall to SuperRugby

Blues head coach Sir John Kirwan has confirmed that he has made a move to bring Wests Tigers NRL star Benji Marshall over to Super Rugby.

Kirwan met with Marshall’s manager Martin Tauber at his home in Sydney this week and the pair held talks about a move to Rugby.

Marshall is apparently contracted to the Wests Tigers until 2015 but a clause allows him to renegotiate after increases in the salary cap.

Tauber has made it clear that Marshall is fiercely loyal to the rugby league club that he made his debut for in 2003 so the only move would to rugby union as he would not play for another league club.

Marshall was stripped of the Kiwi captaincy and was benched at the Tigers this year and it is thought that he is not too happy in rugby league.

The New Zealanders has previously been linked to a team in Japan and the Waratahs but these were put down to attempts at increasing his contract value.

Kirwan’s interest in Marshall is genuine and a potential switch would move him closer to his Whakatane home.

“I heard he was looking to come to rugby union so I contacted his manager,” Kirwan told Fairfax from Durban.

“I’m just doing my job. It was just an initial talk to see how serious he was about moving to rugby union.

“He’s certainly looking at his options. He’s at the end of a contract. Like most professional sports people he is weighing up the future. I think he’s pretty serious about a change of scenery. “

“Whether that’s rugby union or rugby league I’m not quite sure yet. I haven’t personally spoken to Benji. It’s just in the initial stages with his manager.

“If he is coming to rugby he’d be looking at being an All Black and playing sevens, all those great things rugby can bring you.”

Marshall is thought to be on $500,000 per-year at the Tigers but earns over $1 million through endorsements. Kirwan says that Marshall might consider taking a pay cut to join the 15-man code as it would allow him to Olympic Games gold with the sevens.

“Some of those high profile players are on pretty big money but I don’t know if it would be about the money in the end,” Kirwan told Fairfax.

“He might have to take a pay cut but he might do those things to play in New Zealand.”

Kirwan believes that Marshall has all the skills to become a quality first five-eighth in union.

“He’s a fantastic player. I definitely think he would be a 10. His ability to attack and put guys in space around him is incredible. He’s an x-factor player. He’s a pivotal guy in the league circles and he’s a good leader. I think he has all the attributes to play rugby union.

“There would be a transition period like there was for Sonny Bill (Williams) and like there has been with (Wallabies convert) Israel Folau. He’d probably need a year to settle but I’m pretty confident he’s got the ability to do it.

“We’ll now wait and see what Benji wants to do. He has to make that conscious decision. It would be a pretty big process to go through.”

Former All Blacks assistant and now Chiefs coach Wayne Smith revealed that two years ago he and Sir Graham Henry considered Marshall the pinnacle player in either code.

“I can remember Graham and I in 2010 and 2011, we used to watch him play as much as we could,” Smith said.

“We both thought he was probably the best rugby player in the world from either code. He was so special.

“I’d watch him run those second man plays. It looked like he was never going to get involved and then bang he’d go.

“It depends how he comes over. He hasn’t played that well this year. He’s married now … maybe he’s ready to settle down. But if he can get back to where he was … he was very special.”

Kirwan defended Marshall’s defensive weaknesses and Smith said that the NRL star could be used similarly to the way that Reds coach Ewen McKenzie protects Quade Cooper at fullback.

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