The Wokingham Paper

PREVIEW: Marshall ready to reach the final as London Irish name unchanged side

James Marshall kicks
James Marshall has been a stand-out performer for Irish this season (Pic by Dijana Capan)

JAMES MARSHALL says London Irish’s focus is simply on winning the game rather than thinking about the aggregate score against Doncaster on Saturday.

The Exiles come into the play-off semi-final second leg with a healthy 35-3 lead following the convincing victory at Castle Park last weekend.

But while Marshall concedes Irish are almost in the final already, he says they want to put another win on the board on Saturday.

“It’s hard not to think we’ve got one foot in the final,” the New Zealander told The Wokingham Paper.

London Irish have won every league game at Madejski Stadium this season (Pic by Dijana Capan)

“I’ve never played in a game where I’ve got a 32-point advantage before the kick-off, so it’s a strange old situation to be in.

“We’ll just be trying to win the game firstly and then that’ll be enough to get us through to the final.

“It’s just like going into any game.

“We just need to win and then we’ll have no problems. We never go into a game happy to lose, so nothing will change there.

“I don’t think we’ll be trying to hold on to a 32-point lead.”

Marshall has enjoyed a memorable first year in England following his summer switch from Super Rugby side Hurricanes in his homeland.

But the 28-year-old admits it has not been quite what he expected.

“It hasn’t all gone to plan,” he said.

“I wasn’t expecting to be playing in the Championship, firstly.

“It’s been a really cool experience and I’ve enjoyed it so far this year. Hopefully we can get the job done and I can have a go at the Premiership next year.

“It’s been a lot better standard than I’d heard about.

Marshall is expected to start alongside fellow New Zealander Ben Franks on Saturday (Pic by Dijana Capan)

“When I first heard that we were going down to the Championship, I asked a few New Zealanders what they knew about the Championship and they didn’t have a lot of nice things to say about it!

“But the competition is actually a lot better than it gets credit for.

“The physicality of it is pretty massive, it’s right up there. And the skill level is a lot higher than I was expecting as well.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the competition.”

Marshall’s first year in the country could end in double delight with both promotion and the Championship player of the season award.

The fly half was named among a three-man shortlist alongside Yorkshire’s Ryan Burrows and London Scottish star Mark Bright, with the winner announced next week.

“It was pretty surprising to be honest,” he said.

“I think there were a few London Irish guys who are probably more deserving than I am to be nominated, but I was pretty humbled to hear that.

“I think it was the opposition captains who voted for that, so it’s pretty cool to hear.”

Nick Kennedy has resisted the temptation to rest any players despite the healthy first leg lead, naming an unchanged side for tomorrow’s clash.

LONDON IRISH XV: Bell, Lewington, Tikoirotuma, Mulchrone, Cokanasiga, Marshall, McKibbin, Hobbs-Awoyemi, Paice (c), Franks, De Chaves, Sinclair, Coman, Cowan, Treviranus.
Reps: Porecki, Court, Hoskins, Robson, Gilsenan, Steele, Tonks.

Tickets for the London Irish v Doncaster Knights play-off semi-final second leg on Saturday May 6 at Madejski Stadium are on sale from £15 per adult and £2 for under 13s from or by calling 0118 968 1016.

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