Marshall still pivotal for Blues

Wed, 12 Feb 2014 11:50
Large benji marshall pensive

Benji Marshall will continue in the No.10 jersey for the Blues, when they face the Chiefs in their final pre-season hit-out in Rotorua on Friday.

Benji Marshall will continue in the No.10 jersey for the Blues, when they face the Chiefs in their final pre-season hit-out in Rotorua on Friday.

Coach John Kirwan  is backing the Rugby League convert to come good, despite two iffish games in the previous outings.

Charlie Faumuina, Steven Luatua and Piri Weepu have also been named in a strong Blues team.

Faumuina and Luatua will be integrated back into the team and join fellow All Black teammates Francis Saili, Frank Halai and Charles Piutau in the starting XV, while Weepu has recovered from knee surgery in the off-season to start at scrumhalf.

The trio are expected to get through 40 minutes of work before being substituted in the second half.

"It has been difficult for the All Blacks that have come in late," Kirwan said.

"We're just trying to get them into some contact and get them back playing," the Blues mentor said.

"I think we'll see similar to what we saw from Francis and Charles last week in their first game back, just getting out there and having a hit around and we'll then expect a bit more from them the week after."

Kirwan said Faumuina, Luatua and Weepu were chomping at the bit to return to action and that he'd had to curb their enthusiasm.

"They can't wait but we've been holding them back a wee bit," Kirwan added.

"It's been more about their health than anything else, especially the younger guys like Steven. He's really keen to go and I know Charlie is excited too, he's in our leadership group so he can't wait.

"Piri is obviously keen to play, he's just one of those guys who loves playing so I think he'll also be ready."

George Moala has been named at centre for the third successive week, with Kirwan impressed by his development.

"I think George is going to have a special year," Kirwan said.

"He's a centre/wing cover and he is playing centre and we're going to keep playing him there so he gets used to that role. I'm also very happy with Albert Nikoro at fullback, I think he's coming along really well.

"Lolagi is getting better every week so from a combination point of view we need to make sure we've got a full squad and we can cover something if it happens and I'm feeling confident that those guys can do that."

Kirwan said he is confident his side will continue their development.

"It was a good hit-out for us last week, the Waratahs were better organised so this week I just want to see our organisation coming into it and really just a bit more zing.

"It should be a bit more game-like, we've got to start preparing mentally as well. The pre-season is over - this is our final trial and we just need to make sure that we come out of it with confidence to start the season.

"I'm not worried about the result but it would be good to play well and walk off the field knowing we're ready to go for the year."

Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 George Moala, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Lolagi Visinia, 10 Benji Marshall, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Sam Prattley.
Replacements - from: Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Greg Pleasants-Tate, Tom McCartney, Angus Ta'avao, William Lloyd, Patrick Tuipulotu, Kane Barrett, Jordan Manihera, Brendon O'Connor, Bryn Hall, Chris Noakes, Simon Hickey, Jackson Willison, Tevita Li, Albert Nikoro.

Date: Friday, February 14
Venue: Rotorua International Stadium, Rotorua
Kick-off: 18.00 (05.00 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson/Nick Briant

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