x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

New Zealand legend Marshall calls it a day

The third most capped rugby player in history for his country and scrum-half is looking forward to a 'normal' life.

Justin Marshall, the third most capped New Zealand player in history, has announced his retirement from rugby. The 36-year-old scrum-half is set to make what could be his farewell appearance in Saracens' Guinness Premiership play-off clash at Northampton on Sunday. Marshall won 81 caps for the All Blacks, scoring 24 Test tries, and was a mainstay of the Canterbury Crusaders side when they dominated Super Rugby, making more than 100 appearances.

"I have given a lot to the game over the past 17 seasons, but rugby has given me much, much more," he said. "When I was 19, I was in danger of going off the rails, but I was given a chance to move to Christchurch and play for Canterbury. "Later that year, I was picked for the All Blacks and this incredible journey began. I have been so fortunate to make so many friends in this game all around the world.

"It has never been dull, and I have to thank my wife, Nicolle, and my children for supporting me during this period. My career has made massive demands on them, and now we are all looking forward to going home to New Zealand and settling into something like a normal family life. "I just feel immensely grateful to all the talented players and coaches who have made my career so enjoyable and memorable."

Only Sean Fitzpatrick, with 92 caps and Mils Muliaina (82), have represented New Zealand more times than Marshall. Meanwhile, Bryan Habana has been passed fit for the Cape Town Stormers' must-win Super 14 encounter against the Pretoria Bulls, his former team, and is named in the starting XV for the clash at Newlands on Saturday. "Bryan's return will be massive," Allister Coetzee, the head coach said of Habana, who missed last week's 20-14 loss at the Natal Sharks due to a rib problem.

"He's great with ball in hand, but he's also a fantastic communicator which is so important on defence. His work off the ball is also a big feature." Chris Jack, the New Zealand lock, has been dropped to the bench for the Crusaders' crucial clash with the CA Brumbies tomorrow. Jack has been replaced by Sam Whitelock in one of two changes made to the pack by Todd Blackadder, the coach.

Owen Franks returns at tight-head prop with brother Ben switching to the loosehead to replace Wyatt Crockett. who struggled against the Bulls scrum in last weekend's last-gasp loss to the Super 14 competition leaders. * PA