Marshall ready to make up for lost time at Saints

Reece Marshall scored against Saracens in April but suffered a foot injury that sidelined him for several months (picture: Sharon Lucey)
Reece Marshall scored against Saracens in April but suffered a foot injury that sidelined him for several months (picture: Sharon Lucey)

When James Fish was racking up the tries in pre-season, Reece Marshall could have been forgiven for thinking it should have been him.

Marshall was third in the Saints pecking order towards the end of last season before a foot injury sustained in a sizeable defeat to Saracens in April sidelined him for several months.

Fish went on to seize his opportunity, with Dylan Hartley and Mike Haywood also battling injuries at times during pre-season.

And the young hooker made his mark, scoring six tries in just three games, including a hat-trick at the Dragons, as he showed he deserved to be involved under new boss Chris Boyd.

Fish started the opening two Gallagher Premiership games before suffering an injury of his own.

Meanwhile, Marshall was making his way back, eventually returning to action in the Wanderers' friendly defeat to London Irish on September 24.

It was an eventful comeback as Marshall scored and was later sin-binned as he delivered an all-action display.

And now he is keen to make up for lost time, laughing when it is suggested Fish's pre-season try spree was likely to have made him worried about slipping down the Saints pecking order.

"That was exactly what I was thinking!," said the affable 24-year-old.

"But I've always known Fishy is a good player and if he got his chance he was going to do well.

"There are four of us now fighting for it and it makes us better because we can all learn from each other and push each other to be better players.

"In the other sense, it's harder to get that spot.

"We've got this competition now and Dylan (Hartley) away so he'll hopefully be playing for England.

"It gives us three an opportunity to stake a claim."

The No.2 shirt is one of the most hotly-contested at the Gardens, with England skipper Hartley, 2016 Premiership dream team member Mike Haywood, Fish and Marshall all battling it out.

And Marshall is hoping the tries continue to flow for the men wearing the No.2 shirt, with Saints using lineout drives to send them over on a regular basis this year.

"We're flying at the moment, aren't we?," Marshall said.

"Fish got six in pre-season and I've got three in two games so hopefully we'll carry that on this weekend.

"I love playing here so I'm really excited about this weekend.

"I'm a bit nervous because it's been a long time since I played first team so I've just got to believe in myself and do what I need to do."

It has certainly been a long road back for Marshall following that problematic foot injury picked up against Saracens on April 7.

"I didn't really feel anything during the game but I got up the next morning and my foot had swollen up - I couldn't walk on it," he explained.

"I had scans but we weren't too sure what it was. We had a good idea, but it was six weeks of trying to rehabilitate it and try to get back into playing.

"Basically, six weeks later I was still sore and in pain so I ended up having an operation on my Lisfranc in my foot so I had a metal plate put in to put it back together.

"Six months later, I'm back!"

Injury brought an earlier than expected ending to a difficult season for Academy graduate Marshall as he tried to force his way into a struggling Saints team.

"Being a lad who was coming in and started playing, I got a few opportunities but there were times when I thought I could have done something and I didn't get the chance," he said. "That caused a lot of frustration personally.

"When things aren't going well, you think you can make a difference.

"It was dark but there were lads who were excited about this season.

"It wasn't as though we were just looking to get last season done because we fought and we all wanted to impress our new coach.

"But it was tough.

"It got to a point where it was real down."

But Marshall and Co have been reinvigorated by the summer arrival of Kiwi boss Boyd.

"I think things are really good now and I genuinely believe in this system and brand of rugby," Marshall said.

"I know a lot of fans were asking for us to keep the ball and play, and we've done that this year.

"Results won't come straight away because it's very new so we've got to be patient as a club.

"Chris has only been here a few months and things have changed drastically - there's a lot of new people here.

"But I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say we all believe in the system here."