With football’s transfer window in full swing, players will be moving between clubs and potentially making their debut within a few days. Rugby union has a different strategy.
From January 1, teams can talk to players who are out of contract in the summer of the same year with a view to signing them from July 1. That’s a delay of several months between the deal being done and the player appearing on the field. Throw in an injury, and Gloucester Rugby fans still haven’t seen a player the club signed in February 2015.
25 year old Tom Marshall can play at either centre or full back, but an operation on his left knee has meant a significant delay to his first Gloucester appearance, although now that wait is almost over.
“It was a three hour procedure and the recovery is renowned for being slow” he told me. “I’m doing lots of rehab work as we try and build up the strength in the tendon. In a perfect world I’d like to be playing at some point in January – that’s with no hiccoughs….”
Marshall’s Newcastle born grandfather was a key factor to him playing in England. It qualified him for a four year ancestry visa which eased the registration process, and as his agent was fielding enquiries former scrum half Jimmy Cowan helped Gloucester’s cause.
“When you are on the other side of the world a move like this is a bit of a stab in the dark sometimes” Marshall went on. “You want inside knowledge and Jimmy was really helpful. He didn’t have a bad word to say about the club, which on top of my conversations with David Humphreys on Skype helped sell Gloucester to me. I’m happy with my decision.”
With dual qualification. I wondered about Tom’s international ambitions. If his side step on the field is as good, supporters will revel in his abilities.
“I really want to get back on the field and play some good footy for Gloucester.” Marshall smiled. Given his versatility, I wanted to know where he saw his name appearing on the team sheet. “I enjoy playing full back because it is the best seat in the house – you can see everything. When you do chop and change it is difficult to show your best form everywhere. Ideally I’d like to settle in one position but coaches like players they can move if it means keeping your best ones in the team. Ultimately it’s their call.”
The Kiwi mafia at Kingsholm is now a strong group – Afoa, Heinz, Thrush and Latta as well as Marshall himself – although four are new acquisitions this season, which means getting up to speed with who’s who and what’s what in the Premiership, and even though he’s still getting fit Marshall is banking knowledge for the future.
“The physicality is the same back home but the game is slower here” Tom said, ” I’ve been in teams where it is really about playing what you see in front of you. The English game tends to be more structured. There are a lot of stoppages, and it feels as though there are a lot more set pieces and the mindset of the teams is a bit different. Exeter have caught my eye and although we’ve not quite clicked yet we won’t be far off when we get some continuity.”
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