Sydney - Incoming Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie doubts Benji Marshall can
adapt fast enough to make a big impact as a rugby union playmaker.
According to the smh.com.au website, in a sign the ARU is unlikely to target Marshall, McKenzie said the
Wests Tigers five-eighth might have left his run too late to be a star
in the 15-man code.
Marshall, 28, has been linked to Super Rugby franchises Melbourne Rebels
and the Auckland Blues after announcing he wants to leave the Tigers at
the end of the season and possibly play for the All Blacks.
While the Waratahs have played down talk they could sign the Kiwi
international, Red mentor McKenzie warned he didn't possess the
instincts required to be a game-breaking rugby playmaker.
''I don't doubt the competitiveness; I don't doubt the athleticism; I
don't doubt the skill. It's more about where the instincts are,'' said
McKenzie, who starts as Wallabies coach next month. ''That determines
how successful you are going to be. The older you are, the more
entrenched you are with the instincts of whatever you've been doing and
the harder it is to suddenly go and develop new instincts.''
McKenzie rated Marshall an X-factor talent like mercurial Reds No 10
Quade Cooper, but questioned if he'd adapt to less space available in
rugby's phase attack.
''These players do well because they don't think about things - they
just do it,'' he said. ''It's like changing gears in your car. The space
in rugby and the space in rugby league are different. The good players
can learn but it's just a question of how long they take; how long the
investment is before you get the return … the older the guy is, the
harder it is to make the transition.''
Rugby's most successful league converts have been outside-backs; Israel
Folau, Lote Tuqiri, Jason Robinson and Mat Rogers largely played in the
back three, while Rogers had four seasons before he played No 10. Sonny
Bill Williams also produced his best season at inside-centre last year,
his third full year in the code.
Watahs assistant coach Alan Gaffney said there might not be room in the
Waratahs' back line if they retained Folau and signed Wallabies teammate
''Obviously if we get certain other individuals [Folau and Beale] to
come on board, whether there's a balance there for him to even fit into
the Waratahs is a debatable issue,'' he said.
McKenzie said he spoke with Marshall's manager, among others, when he
was coaching the Waratahs last decade as NSW tried to fix their Achilles
He eventually settled on waiting for Beale to finish high school.