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    Marshall eyes All Black jersey

    2013-08-06 10:14
    Auckland - Benji Marshall is to join Super Rugby side the Blues as early as Tuesday and has set his sights on an All Blacks jersey in time for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

    Marshall on Monday night met with his manager Martin Tauber, who has effectively ruled out all other options for the Wests Tigers five-eighth.

    The 28-year-old, who was impressed with the Blues after a visit to Auckland late last week, is likely to agree to join the club on Tuesday or Wednesday, ending speculation over his future following his request for a release from the final two years of his Tigers contract.

    Any official announcement on a two-year deal, believed to be worth close to $500 000 a season, is not expected until later this week.

    Marshall met with Blues coach John Kirwan, chief executive Andy Dalton, new chairperson Tony Carter, stakeholder Murray Bolton and Auckland Rugby Union chairman Glenn Wahlstrom on Friday. Marshall returned to Sydney on Friday but Tauber stayed until Sunday to meet with incumbent and potential sponsors.

    Marshall's future became clearer after Tauber effectively ruled out the Waratahs and the Melbourne Rebels, the other Super Rugby franchises that were interested in him.

    According to the website, it is understood Marshall will not be able to play in Japan if he signs with the Blues, but Auckland officials have come up with a lucrative financial package.

    Marshall would have needed to agree to play with Australia to earn an Australian Rugby Union top-up alongside a contract with one of the local franchises, something he has steadfastly refused to do. He has also had some interest from France but Marshall is believed to have effectively ruled a line through that option as well.

    "We're comfortable and confident in the presentation (Blues officials) made,'' Tauber said.

    "Any decision is still 24 to 48 hours away, but everything presented to us has been excellent. The talks were highly professional. Their vision for the club, to win the Super Rugby title, was first-class.

    "There will be no more talk with the Waratahs or the Melbourne Rebels, and also Japan. I'd like to thank Bill Pulver (the ARU chief executive) for all his consideration.''

    Marshall was expected to sign his deed of release from the Tigers on Monday.

    While Tauber met with Blues administrators on Friday, Marshall had a long separate conversation with Kirwan, the former All Blacks wing. Kirwan sees Marshall as an option at flyhalf, inside centre or fullback.

    An end to the speculation around Marshall should be greeted well by Wests Tigers supporters and the club itself.

    The Tigers have lost four matches in a row, while Marshall's form has been poor through their lean run. Marshall will hope to focus on the final five matches in his NRL career, beginning with a clash against Parramatta on Friday.

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