Thursday, March 29, 2007

Justin Marshall wants out?

April 17, 2006

Former All Black and current Leeds scrum-half Justin Marshall has pleaded with the club to let him leave following relegation from the Guinness Premiership.

Newcastle's bonus-point win over Sale Sharks at Kingston Park on Sunday condemned Leeds to the drop with two games of the season still to play.

Rugby Planet reports:

Marshall eyes exit from Leeds

AB to flee sinking ship?

With Leeds Tykes still absorbing the repercussions of their relegation from the Guinness Premiership, former New Zealand scrum-half Justin Marshall has hinted that he will be pushing for an early release from his contract with the stricken club.

Newcastle's bonus-point win over Sale Sharks at Kingston Park on Sunday condemned Leeds to the drop with two games of the season still to play.

The Tykes must now turn their attention to retaining their top players, with the 32-year-old AB star at the very top of the agenda.

Contrary to popular belief, Marshall's contract does not contain an escape clause allowing him to find other employment now that the Tykes have lost their Premiership status.

Leeds are determined to keep hold of him, pointing out that Marshall's erstwhile All Blacks half-back partner Andrew Mehrtens has spent a season with Harlequins in National Division One, but the scrum-half seemed to be in getaway mood after his club's 15th, and fatal, defeat of the league campaign.

"I enjoy it at Leeds," Marshall told the Guardian.

"I came here because I wanted to experience something different to what I was used to in New Zealand, but that did not mean that I did not want to experience it at the top level.

"It is ultimately Leeds' decision what happens to me. I am unable to make any negotiations [with other clubs] or look to my future because of my contract.

"I have played my heart out this season and it would be an act of good faith if they let me go.

"I would have expected Leeds to be a lot higher up than we are, and that seems a little bit like I have failed in what I came over here to do.

"I felt that Leeds were always competitve and capable of beating all the other teams in the competition, but what they couldn't do was win the close ones.

"I thought that perhaps with my experience I might have been able to help the side and get us into positions to win those sort of games, but that hasn't happened, so I feel slightly disappointed about that.

"But I have played my heart and guts out this season, that is the way I am."

Bourgoin have made their interest known, with the French club's director Pierre Raschi telling the Daily Mail: "He is the number nine we want for next season and we have made an offer - it is a big proposition."

Despite Marshall's itchy feet and Bourgoin's overtures, Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington confirmed Marshall has no escape clause in his deal.

"We want to build from here and Justin will be playing for Leeds in National League One next season," he said.


If Marshie (or Meg, or wotever they're calling him these days) wants a pundit's advice, I'd say he should return to NZ and play some NPC later in the year, then Super 14 next season, and stake his chances to re-claim the AB's #9 for the 2007 RWC. Byron Kelleher looks like he has lost the plot and the mercurial Piri Weepu is sometimes fantastic, but still looks a bit raw to me. The ABs have lost a 4th loose forward in Tana Umaga, they could use Marshall in that capacity again. Also, even though he's a bit longer in the tooth, I imagine the European club experience will have done Marshall a world of good. For years he has always played behind All Black, Canterbury and Crusader packs -- generally on the front-foot and ascendent. But playing behind a pack going backwards for most of the year will have served him well, and I suspect he may still very well be the best scrumhalf in NZ, but that should be determined by some head-to-head competition. I think he still has the fire in the belly, it's simply a matter of his feet complying. We shall see...


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