Aisle be Back: Hurricanes v Sunwolves in Tokyo

18/04/2019

He’s only on the bench but the most pleasing news for me this week was the return of James Marshall.

You may recall he suffered a nasty (is there a nice?) dislocated shoulder against the Waratahs in what seems ages ago. I and a lot of people probably assumed it was season ending.

Now utility backs coming back from injury shouldn’t grab headlines normally. But hey let’s hear it for the safe pair of hands. Given the frequent permutations  the current Canes backline has undergone – most of which involve Jordie playing where he doesn’t want to play – then let’s hear it for the utility.

Marshall also feels like the closer in baseball. Bring him on with 15 to go and settle things down. But he’s also a creative player, just in case you’re thinking he’s deadly dull. In short he won’t give you downside, and will probably deliver on the upside.

He can of course play first-five. So you know, amid all the flashy but unproven young pretenders to go to the RWC as backup, who knows what could happen.

I didn’t mention it last week but the loss overseas of Sam Louisi is a shock. No wonder the Canes can’t build a forward pack long-term when such a young player – in locking terms – is upping sticks for overseas. The player drain has got to be a worry.

+++++++

Still about six months out, and who didn’t feel the panic when Damian McKenzie went down and out for the season. And I mean, no-one seriously rates him as a frontline first-five.

It does go to show that for all the supposed depth, we are hurting from the player drain. Aaron Cruden and Lima Sopoaga would be easy slot-ins and experienced.

It’s not that there aren’t capable enough backups, although none with the X-factor, but the lack of experience that will apply to the next cab off the rank. When or how are the All Blacks going to blood that third first-five, because basically there aren’t that many international matches to come.

So, I’ll jinx it by saying this isn’t 2011 and there is no way injury will strike again in the same position. No way.

+++++++

Sunwolves in Tokyo. The Canes announced what they said was an experienced outfit, when clearly it isn’t really.

Fair enough to take the opportunity to get some of the fringe players on the park for the full 80. Just hope this doesn’t turn into a banana skin of the sort felt by say the Chiefs.

It should actually be pretty close. Perhaps we should have snuck Ardie on in the carry on baggage.

++++++

I’ve said it before but the Israel Folau saga to me is a done deal. He can hold his religious views and say what he likes on social media – provided he doesn’t contravene the contract he has with Rugby Australia.

There’s some contention over what that contract says regarding social media, but the code of conduct he appears to be bound by doesn’t seem to leave much doubt that he cannot embarrass his employer with statements that run contrary to that organisation’s ethos.

So I would expect he won’t get a second chance, and will have only himself to blame.

++++++

The Hurricanes team to play the Sunwolves – kick-off 10.00pm Friday night – is:

15 Chase Tiatia
14 Wes Goosen
13 Matt Proctor
12 Ngani Laumape
11 Ben Lam

Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, Tokyo,

10 Fletcher Smith
9 TJ Perenara (c)
8 Reed Prinsep
7 Du’Plessis Kirifi
6 Vaea Fifita
5 Liam Mitchell
4 James Blackwell
3 Ben May
2 Ricky Riccitelli
1 Fraser Armstrong

Reserves

16 Asafo Aumua
17 Xavier Numia
18 Jeff To’omaga-Allen
19 Isaia Walker-Leawere
20 Sam Henwood
21 Richard Judd
22 James Marshall
23 Billy Proctor

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