In the second installment of our exclusive three part interview with Benji Marshall, hear about his thoughts on playing ITM Cup, Sevens, who he’s mates with at the Blues, working with the likes of †Sir John Kirwan, Sir Graham Henry and Mick Byrne and what his aspirations are in rugby union.
Do you know many of the guys that you’ll be playing with at the Blues next year?
I know a couple, Piri Weepu is one of my close family friends who I’ve known for a long time so that’ll make it definitely a lot easier but obviously watching the up-and-coming talent there’s a lot of young guys who are really impressive ñ Charles Piutau and Frank Halai and guys like that are pretty exciting to watch so hopefully I can put those guys over for a couple of tries. It’s just exciting, the age and talent and the depth that the Blues have coming through is very exciting so I can’t wait for that.
Have you spoken with any other players that have made the switch from league to union about how they found the transition?
No to be honest I haven’t, I didn’t really ask many people about their experience because I want to live that experience for myself. I think I’m a hard worker at training and I enjoy that side of learning and as a player everyday you want to learn something new and I think that’s the challenge for me ñ I’ve been given this fresh opportunity that’s new and exciting and everyday I know I’m going to be learning something new so I’m going to be like the new kid in town and the young guy bouncing around and trying to get to know everyone and get to learn all the rules and that’s exciting for me.
You must be excited about the calibre of coaches you’ll be working with next year?
Absolutely I think with Sir Graham Henry at the Blues it’s an enticing thing to make you want to go there with his success with the All Blacks so with Sir John and Graham and Mick Byrne who’s the skills coach for the All Blacks as well it’s pretty exciting and gives me a great opportunity to learn the game.
So what would you say your main aspirations in rugby would be?
Putting it bluntly it’s to win a title with the Blues. First and foremost if we can do that the rest takes care of itself. I’d love the opportunity to play for the All Blacks no doubt, but that’s not going to happen unless we’re having success at the Blues and my performance is doing the talking on the field so I think first and foremost to win the title. It’s been a long time for the Blues, they used to be a dominant force in Super Rugby 10 years ago and I want to help hopefully get that back.†
When are you looking at heading over to New Zealand?
To be honest I’m not sure yet, maybe September, maybe October. I haven’t really sat down and spoken to the Blues about what the scenario is yet but my wife and I are ready to go when we need to be so that won’t be a drama.
Before you start with the Blues are you planning on playing any ITM Cup?
No I don’t think so. My deal starts with ITM Cup for next year and the year after so I’m not actually contracted to them at the moment. I might be saying the wrong thing because I don’t really know what the expectations are but from a contract point of view I’m not contracted for this season.
There’s been some talk about playing Sevens, is that a genuine interest for you?
First and foremost I want to succeed in 15s, that’s my priority no doubt but if the opportunity comes along to play Sevens and they want me to do that and it doesn’t conflict with any 15-a-side stuff then yes I’d be happy to. I grew up playing Sevens and touch, I represented New Zealand at touch and I feel like I could definitely contribute to that side and contribute skills to that arena but my goal is to win with the Blues first and foremost and if the Sevens doesn’t get in the way of that then fine.
You’ve played at Eden Park before with the Kiwis, are you looking forward to making it your home ground in 2014?
Absolutely that’s one of the most exciting parts about it as well. Eden Park is such the holy grail of rugby union in New Zealand and there’s so much history that’s gone on there and hopefully I can be a part of that.
So just how excited are you to be returning home to New Zealand?
I don’t know if you can tell but on the inside I’m jumping up and down. It’s just all happened so fast it’s been sort of hard to take in and process straight away. I’ve still got a few games left with the Tigers to try and go out on a high note I suppose if you can say that and at the end of that I’ll get really excited about it. I know my mum’s looking forward to me moving home and my grandfather as well so I suppose it’s exciting for my family as well.