Blues stint central to Joe Marchant’s versatility

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  • Joe Marchant
    English rugby union footballer (1996-)

England and Harlequins outside back Joe Marchant believes that experience gained in Super Rugby with the Blues opened him up to the opportunity of playing on the wing.

Marchant gained his reputation as a centre earning his Test debut for England from the replacements bench against Wales in 2019.

However, he failed to make the Rugby World Cup squad later that year and took a sabbatical from Harlequins to play for the Blues during the 2020 Super Rugby season.

Positional switch

Early on during his time in Auckland, the Blues coaching staff put out feelers to Marchant on the possibility of playing on the wing.

“I hadn’t really played too much on the wing for Quins until I went there and when I was out there, in one of my earliest conversations with [Blues coach] Leon MacDonald, it was very much about playing at 13 and on the wing as well,” Marchant told The Observer.

“To get that experience, when we went to South Africa my first game on the wing was against the Stormers. I got another against the Hurricanes.”

The 25-year-old was impressed with the speed of Super Rugby, scoring two tries against the Stormers and amassing seven appearances for the Blues in a Covid-19 disrupted season.

“Then coming back to Quins they saw that I could do it, it became transferable and I ended up doing a couple of games on the wing for Quins and more regularly this season and the back end of last,” he added. “We’ve got so many good players, we can all play in different positions. It’s more just about getting everyone on the pitch together.”

Marchant earned his recall to the England squad for the November 2020 Autumn Nations Cup, replacing Jonathan Joseph on the right wing.

He was retained for the 2021 Six Nations getting game-time as a replacement centre against Ireland.

Marchant claimed his seventh cap on the right wing in the 27-26 victory over South Africa in the 2021 Autumn International series but had to move to the midfield after only eight minutes after an injury to Manu Tuilagi.

He also expressed his delight in playing outside talented fly-half Marcus Smith at both club and Test level.

“It’s nice to have that relationship with someone at international level,” said Marchant. “Knowing how Marcus plays and to be able to work off that is a good way for me to be able to get into the game.”

Marchant has been part of the Harlequins squad since 2014 and now works under Tabai Matson (director of rugby) and Nick Evans (backline coach).

Since his return from New Zealand, Marchant has become a core member of the Harlequins side that claimed the 2020/2021 Premiership title.

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