Marshall eyes All Black jersey
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
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 smh.com.au 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.