JUST two months after making his Super Rugby debut, Benji Marshall faces the axe from the Blues side.
Reports in New Zealand suggest Marshall will be dropped to Auckland's development side this week, which means he'd miss their Anzac Day clash against the Waratahs at Eden Park on Friday.
It was supposed to be his defining match in his maiden year of rugby, against the side of his former city which includes fellow convert Israel Folau, but Marshall could instead sink to his lowest ebb since making a code switch from NRL club Wests Tigers.
He has started just once and been used sparingly off the bench by coach Sir John Kirwan.
But after a mediocre performance against the Hurricanes last Friday it's believed reserve five-eighth Marshall will lose his bench spot in favour of playmakers Simon Hickey and Chris Noakes — who was replaced by Marshall after suffering concussion in Wellington.
Kirwan made a point post-match of expressing disappointment with his side's second half display, saying they lost direction and weren't straight enough in attack — key aspects of Marshall's job as the playmaker.
Benji Marshall has struggled for the Blues in Super Rugby. Source: Getty Images
With consistent speculation that league clubs are gauging Marshall's interest in a return to the 13-man game, being dropped by Kirwan would only serve to strengthen that noise.
Kirwan has already stated that Marshall will play club rugby during the June internationals, a far cry from the player's halcyon days as league's most exciting and watchable talent.
The Blues will encounter a Waratahs side keen to back up their gritty 19-12 win over the Bulls in Sydney last Saturday night in front of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
But given their arduous previous three-week tour to South Africa and Perth, NSW coach Michael Cheika has given his side the rest of the Easter weekend off meaning they'll only have two proper days of training before playing the Blues.
The Tahs will return to the training paddock on Tuesday and Wednesday before flying to Auckland on Thursday.
Veteran backrower Stephen Hoiles struggled to recall a shorter build-up to a match.
"I can't remember too many," Hoiles said.
"The good thing about that is being on tour in the last few weeks, you tend to get a lot more time in. Like the lineouts weren't going so well three or four weeks ago, so we spent a lot of time on that on tour.
"The training we've done in the last few weeks being together 24-7, that's allowed Cheik to give us two days off.
"That's a big indication of where he thinks the group is at, he feels we're responsible enough to look after ourselves in these two days and we've done the work.
"We turn up on Tuesday and it's all about the Blues."
Hoiles said the Tahs, now fifth on the table after five wins in eight games, are tracking as they'd hoped.
"The results, 5-3, is a fair indication of where we're at," Hoiles said.
"It has been shown that in this comp it is really hard to string two wins together especially when you're on the road.
"I think we're in a good place."
Hoiles added that the steely victory against the Bulls, NSW's first in nine years, could make a big difference at the end of the season.
"In the end it's hopefully one of those wins you look back on at the end of your season as an important win, knowing it was tougher to get and you ground it out," he said.
"The biggest thing from that is we want to play that (attacking) style of footy, but you've got to finish, and to finish you've got to realign in attack and have depth and cover the whole field to spread the defence a little bit more.
"That was the big thing coming out of the Force game, we're not going to sit here and say attacking rugby doesn't work.
"We're still confident that it can work, we've worked really hard to get to this stage so we're not hiding away from the fact that we do want to run the ball, we've just got to be a little bit sharper in how we finish."