BENJI Marshall has ruled himself out of the rugby league World Cup in October ahead of his code swap to rugby union.
When former Kiwis captain Marshall signed a two-year Super Rugby contract with the Auckland-based Blues last month he remained in New Zealand’s 38-man wider squad chosen ahead of the World Cup.
However, the Wests Tigers playmaker was not included in a 17-strong New Zealand train-on squad, made up of players from NRL teams who did not make the finals, which was named on Tuesday.
Convenor of selectors Tony Iro confirmed Marshall had told selectors he won’t be available for the World Cup in France and England.
“We’re naturally disappointed to not have Benji available for World Cup selection, but we understand the circumstances and wish him well,” Iro said.
“He’ll always be a Kiwi brother and he has done wonders not only for rugby league in New Zealand, but the game in general.”
Iro said Marshall was a key part of the Kiwis team that won New Zealand’s first ever Rugby League World Cup in 2008.
“He followed that up with a starring role, as captain, in our 2010 Four Nations win. He’ll be missed, but we believe we have players in the halves that are ready to deliver in this World Cup tournament.”
Marshall debuted for the Kiwis in the 2005 Anzac Test and played 27 Tests, including 19 as captain.
The 17 players named have been chosen from the eight clubs that won’t feature in the NRL play-offs this year, with eight coming from the Warriors.
The national selectors – Richie Barnett, Ivan Cleary, Stephen Kearney, Tawera Nikau and Iro – will add to the squad in the coming weeks as teams are eliminated from the NRL finals.
A Kiwis squad of 24 for the World Cup will be named on October 8.
The squad has a warm-up game against the Cook Islands in Doncaster on October 20, before they open their World Cup defence on October 27 in Warrington against Samoa.
Kiwis train on squad: Alex Glenn, Josh Hoffman, Bronson Harrison, Jason Nightingale, Lewis Brown, Sam McKendry, Dean Whare, Shaun Johnson, Thomas Leuluai, Kevin Locke, Simon Mannering, Ben Matulino, Sam Rapira, Elijah Taylor, Manu Vatuvei, Adam Blair, Tim Simona.