NRL star eyes off an All Black jersey with code-switch to Super 15 side.
Rugby league star Benji Marshall confirmed he is switching to rugby union, signing for Super 15 side Auckland Blues with hopes of making the All Blacks.
“It gives me great pleasure to announce that I’ll be joining the Auckland Blues,” Marshall said on the Blues’ official YouTube channel, ending months of speculation about his future.
“I’m really looking forward to this opportunity to hopefully bring a title to the Blues and hopefully, maybe, one day represent the All Blacks,” the New Zealand-born playmaker said.
Australian sides NSW Waratahs and Melbourne Rebels were also chasing Marshall’s signature after he announced he was ending his lengthy relationship with Sydney league club Wests Tigers.
Marshall has committed to a lucrative two-year deal with the Auckland franchise for 2014 and 2015, understood to be worth close to NZ$500,000 (US$400,000) a season.
In the video, the 28-year-old said he was “happy and excited” to be returning to New Zealand but was sad to be leaving the Tigers.
“On that note, I’d like to thank all my fans not only from the Wests Tigers, but rugby league in general for all the support throughout the last 11 years of playing in the NRL.”
Blues coach John Kirwan said in a statement he was not yet in a position to say where Marshall would fit into his side next season.
“I’ve always said I’m not going to put any pressure on that. Obviously he’s a talented player so perhaps 15, 12 or 10 but we don’t really know yet,” Kirwan said.
“We’re leaning towards 15 but we’ll just have to wait until he joins the team for pre-season training and see how it goes.”
Although Marshall’s defensive abilities have been questioned in the past, Kirwan preferred to talk up his exceptional attacking talents.
“Benji has the ability to break open a game. He’s one of those players that does the right thing at the right time. He has great footwork and a good passing game so we can see those attributes really being beneficial to the Blues and to rugby union.”
Marshall made his first class debut for the Tigers against the Newcastle Knights in 2003 and has gone on to play 196 games for the club. He has also played 27 Tests for the New Zealand Kiwis, captaining the side from 2009-2012.
He last played rugby union as an under-16 New Zealand schoolboy representative.