Marshall Out Of Australia Test

New Zealand’s hopes of scalping rivals Australia in the Canberra test next Friday have been dented after playmaker Benji Marshall was confirmed injured for at least a month with a toe injury.

Marshall, 28, picked up his toe ligament strain during Wests Tigers’ 26-12 defeat to Melbourne on Monday night. Although the extent of the injury appears to not be as bad as first seemed, the fact Marshall will miss four weeks of rugby action is a real blow to both New Zealand and the Tigers’ plans.

The Kiwis are already expected to include league returnee Sonny Bill Williams to the squad after a five-year absence from the code. SBW’s performances with Sydney Roosters have been strong so far but his return won’t be enough for NZ without the explosive talents of Marshall.

Indeed, for rugby league fans in the betting world Marshall’s absence from the Kiwis squad means Australia are even greater favourites to win next Friday’s clash. There was always the danger this game could descend into a damage limitation exercise but hopefully Marshall’s replacement – most likely to be Shaun Johnson or Thomas Leuluai – can step up to the mark.

“Benji’s a key player to lose but it is another opportunity for us to put another half in there and see what he can do,” Kiwis assistant coach Tony Iro revealed.

“With the World Cup coming up we know what Benji can do in the position so here is an opportunity for another guy to show what they’re capable of.”

So while rugby betting fans will bemoan Marshall’s absence at least the team management is thinking ahead to the 2013 World Cup. New Zealand have a good chance of making the final this year and will probably meet Australia at Old Trafford, meaning SBW, Johnson and Lauluai all have an opportunity to prove themselves before November.

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