Abu Dhabi Harlequins' depleted squad boosted by return to fitness of Chris Marshall after two years on the sidelines
Winger underwent surgery on a dislocated shoulder 12 months ago and is ready to help club build on record haul of five trophies last season
Abu Dhabi Harlequins have had a boost following a troubled summer with the return to the playing field of Chris Marshall.
The 27-year-old wing has returned to the fold after two years out with a dislocated shoulder. After several aborted attempts to come back, he underwent surgery 12 months ago, and is now finally ready to vie for a place in the Harlequins starting line up.
Marshall says that being on the outside looking in as his teammates wrapped up five trophies last season was bittersweet.
“It was brilliant to see the club do so well last year, but not being able to be involved with the club and your mates, having to watch from the sidelines for such a prolonged period, was really tough to take,” Marshall said.
“I came down to training as often as I could, but when you can’t be as involved as you want to be, it is hard. We had some great players playing last season, and I don’t know if I’d have made the side anyway.”
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Now he is back to help West Asia’s leading side’s defence of the titles they won last season, and even has his eye on a first UAE cap.
Before his injury, Marshall was a key part of the UAE sevens side, and he is targeting a place in the XVs set up, too.
“I was trying to get as involved with the UAE circuit as possible, and was hoping to get into the first XV of the UAE,” he said.
“The timing of the dislocation kept me out of that completely, which was enormously frustrating as it looked like a great set up under Apollo Perelini, with some really good players involved.
“It is certainly something I’d like to target this year. Missing out on opportunities like that has been one of the many frustrations.”
After the unparalleled success of last season, when they won every major trophy on offer, this summer has been a challenging one for Harlequins.
The loss of substantial sponsorship funding has left them searching for ways to cut costs, including looking for a new home away from the immaculate fields of Zayed Sports City.
They have advertised on their social media streams for a new club captain, medical officer, and membership secretary, while a raft of players from the first XV have also left.
Pillars of the five-trophy winning season such as Willie Umu, Brian Geraghty and Pat Jenkinson will not be involved this time around.
As such, Mike McFarlane, the Harlequins coach, is delighted to have a player of Marshall’s class to call on.
“It is fantastic having a player of his calibre coming back in,” McFarlane said.
“He has such a good rugby brain, great core skills, and put with his frame, he is a fantastic rugby player. It is now just a matter of him building confidence.
“For anyone coming back from a big injury, you can do all your rehab and physical work, but it is all about the first contact sessions back. He has had that, and has been great.”
Marshall himself is wary of the level set by Harlequins last year, but is keen to make a contribution to the effort to make those standards.
“I’m conscious a few of the influential players from last season have gone, and I would never compare myself to them as they were top, top players,” Marshall said.
“But I’m hoping I can do everything I can to help try and plug those gaps, and get us back to close to the level we were at last year. It will be a big ask, but I am confident we still have a very good side.”
Updated: August 29, 2017 05:58 PM