'Honestly, I almost died': The stressful Super Rugby education Joe Marchant is relishing
On-loan England midfielder Joe Marchant is relishing his impending return to New Zealand-style rugby after the easing of the coronavirus restrictions in the land of the All Blacks. An all-New Zealand Super Rugby series is set to commence on June 13 featuring the five local franchises facing off against each other in a series of derby matches through to August 16.
Having won three Test caps in 2019 under Eddie Jones, the 23-year-old was allowed to further his rugby education with a temporary switch from Harlequins to the Auckland-based Blues.
That move looked to have ended in disappointment, the Super Rugby season suspended in mid-March after just seven rounds of the fixtures in the 2020 campaign. But Marchant – who scored three tries in six outings – is now set to return to play much sooner than would be the case if he was in London on Gallagher Premiership duty with Paul Gustard’s side.
The Blues are back in action on June 14 in the Aotearoa 2020 with a home match in Auckland versus the Hurricanes and Marchant can’t wait to continue his appreciation of New Zealand club rugby versus the style he had encountered in the English top-flight.
Speaking on the latest edition of the BBC’s Rugby Union Weekly podcast, Marchant explained: “Everyone just goes for it here. The play is a lot looser – even in training there are just offloads all the time.
“There is a big emphasis on keeping the ball alive. There was a ten-minute period in a pre-season game – one of my first here – when the ball was constantly in play. Honestly, I almost died. It was fun, but it was so much running.
“I reckon the defence in England is better, a lot more solid, but I think that is about the size of the blokes and the speed of the game.
“I was hoping I was going to be able to come here and bring defence as a big part of my game, but I just can’t get set quick – I’m trying to get back onside the ball is already gone. My tackle stats have gone down a lot and I have found it a lot more difficult.”
If the schedule goes to plan, Marchant can potentially manage to squeeze in three matches for the Blues in June before his July 1 return to Harlequins.
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