Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Tyrone Howe: Brilliant Marshall has raced into pole position for Ireland call-up

The performances and decision-making of other scrum-halves in the Heineken Cup over the weekend put Paul Marshall’s performance even more in the spotlight and added to the clamour for his first international cap this autumn.

His two biggest rivals both underperformed. Eoin Reddan had a torrid time as the Exeter pack put his Leinster forwards under immense pressure at the breakdown.

Conor Murray endured even more and arguably made the biggest gaffe of the weekend.

Munster had battled their way into the lead with eight minutes to play against Racing Metro and instead of hoofing the ball either down the pitch or into the stands Murray chose to run the ball out of his own 22.

Racing got the penalty and the game slipped away.

In total contrast, Marshall was imperious on Friday night. The combination of Neil Doak’s coaching, Ruan Pienaar’s mentoring and sheer hard work by the player have paid dividends in some of the technical aspects of his scrum-half play.

Marshall’s box kicks, which two seasons ago were inconsistent, are now right on the money.

His passing is snappy and accurate, and his pace which has always been present is now being utilised at the right times and in the right situations.

Earlier this year, Marshall paid a personal price for the grumpiness of selectors about Ruan Pienaar’s signing by not being selected for the Wolfhounds against England Saxons.

Despite being known commodities, Isaac Boss and Tomas O’Leary were the chosen two.

Marshall’s non-selection was nothing short of a disgrace. Surely this autumn will be different.

He is currently the best Irish scrum-half and whether or not he starts on Friday against Glasgow does not change that.

Selection for Ireland’s match against South Africa will most likely be based on experience.

After that it might get interesting — not only should he make the Wolfhounds game against Fiji, he should also win his first cap against Argentina. This is the form selection.

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