Wallabies watchful over Benji's moves - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Wallabies watchful over Benji's moves

By David Beniuk 19/02/2009 08:47:20 PM Comments (0)

The Wallabies hierarchy would keep a keen eye on Benji Marshall's progress if the NRL star made a permanent switch to the 15-man game.

Marshall is investigating interest from Japanese rugby clubs in a possible playing stint during the NRL off-season.

NRL boss David Gallop has threatened off-contract Wests Tigers half Marshall with a ban if he plays union in Japan and then attempts to re-sign with the NRL club.

Playing both codes is a proposal the Australian Rugby Union also reject but high performance unit manager David Nucifora, whose responsibilities include signing big-name players, said on Thursday a committed switch from Marshall would attract their interest.

"I think our stance with players wanting to play our game has been reasonably consistent," Nucifora told reporters.

"We want people who want to play the game, who want to be there for the right reasons and I think if you're to-ing and fro-ing between two games that's not really making the commitment that we're looking for."

But should Marshall find himself to-ing to rugby only, the ARU will be watching his progress.

"It was the same with Mark Gasnier going to France," Nucifora said.

"That's great, they want to make a change and go and play rugby and whether it be in Japan or Europe it gives us an opportunity just to watch and see how they go and then we can make decisions from there.

"If they enjoy the game and they're good at it then there'll be an opportunity for them if they put their hand up to come back."

Marshall was a member of New Zealand's World Cup-winning rugby league side last year but his residency in Australia over many years would qualify him for Wallabies selection - if he returned to play in a Super 14 side.

Nucifora has little doubt Marshall would be a success in rugby and even hinted the 23-year-old had previously been on the ARU's radar.

"I'm sure he'd be great," he said. "He's incredibly talented and he's played rugby.

"(But) ... if they're just thinking about doing it for financial reasons, that really won't wash with us."

Nucifora said the Japanese competition, which is of a lower standard than the Super 14 or those in Europe, could be a good environment in which to make the transition.

"It's probably not a bad place to put your toe in the water," he said.

"But you'd probably want a stronger indication of their ability than just watching them play Japanese rugby."

Meanwhile, Nucifora left open the possibility that Gasnier, who plays for French Top 14 side Stade Francais, could return to a Super 14 franchise in 2011 in time to press for selection in Australia's Rugby World Cup squad.

"He's starting to play a little bit more consistently now," Nucifora said.

"I think Mark's of the opinion he's got to give himself this season and next to see how he's progressing.

"Depending on how he thinks he's going and how we think he's going and whether he's interested and we're interested then we'll have a look at that down the track."

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