Justin Marshall, rugby player

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"It's about having a never say die attitude," says the former Ospreys scrum half.

Raise Your Game: Were you always good at sport in school?

Justin Marshall: I wasn't always really good at sport, but I always enjoyed it. Right from when I was first able to walk around and kick a ball, or pick up a bat, I've always been that way inclined.

RYG: Did you do well in school?

JM: I enjoyed school. Initially I was pretty good, I got a few class awards, which I always hark back to. They were the significant achievements in my schooling career. If I'm really honest I was more interested in sports and girls and things like that. They took preference.

RYG: How important is being competitive to you?

JM: I think being competitive is one of the character traits that have helped me to get as far as I have. It's about having a never say die attitude. Sport isn't all about winning, but it is about going out and doing your very best. Once you realise that, you develop a competitive desire.

That's something I've always had. I never want my opposite number to get the better of me; I never want the opposition to get the better of me. Sometimes they do, but that's sport. If you've got something inside you that tells you to never give up, you tend to do pretty well.

RYG: Do you think that translates into everyday life?

JM: Of course. I take the attitude that I have in sport into anything I do, whether it's business or something else. There are things you can learn from sport, as well as from all the other things that you learn in school, that help you in life in general.

RYG: How important is it to be part of a team?

Profile

Name:
Justin Warren Marshall

Born:
5 August 1973

From:
Mataura, New Zealand

Height:
1.78m

Weight:
85kg

Game:
Rugby Union

Position:
Scrum half

Team:
Montpellier

International:
New Zealand

Previous Teams:

  • Ospreys (2006 - 2008)
  • Leeds Tykes (2005-2006)
  • Canterbury Crusaders (1995 - 2005)
  • Southland (1992 - 1994)

Achievements:

  • EDF Energy Cup Winner (2008)
  • 2007 Magners League Champion
  • 86 caps for New Zealand All Blacks
  • Crusaders Player of the Year (2005)
  • New Zealand Player of the Year (1996)
  • Super 12 Champion (1998, 1999 and 2000)

JM: Rugby is a team sport, and I've played it since I was five-years-old. It's been a big part of my life to have team-mates around me. With individual sports you do a lot of work on your own, but team sports revolve around other people. That helps to make great friendships, but it also teaches you about people. You learn their strengths and weaknesses, you learn their humour. Being part of a team can have its ups and downs, but the majority of the time it's great fun.

RYG: What makes a great player?

JM: Greatness is all about desire. I think we all have competitiveness in us, but you need a real desire and ambition to push yourself beyond what other people are doing. I still use that to this day.

Sometimes I don't feel like going training, particularly when it's the off season, but at my age I push myself out of the door because I know somebody wants my position. I want to stay at a level that I believe I should be playing at. Once you get to that level, you never want to let yourself down. That's a big part of who you are, and that's what gets you to the top and keeps you there.

RYG: Is attitude as important as talent?

JM: Definitely. Attitude is all about desire, competitiveness and discipline. If you've got the right attitude, you've got the right ingredients to succeed. Then it's all about how you apply your skills on the field. That gets you to where you want to be.

RYG: How important was it for you to play as an All Black?

JM: It's the number one sport in New Zealand. People say it's the number one sport in Wales, but football is also very powerful here. In New Zealand it's number one by a long way. The All Blacks are very much at the forefront of everybody's thinking.

As a young rugby player growing up you always have aspirations, no matter who you are, to be in an All Blacks team. I always tried to emulate All Blacks' players when I was growing up, so to finally reach that pinnacle of playing for the All Blacks is really hard to describe. I played 81 tests for New Zealand, and I've always said that if I had never played for them again after my first cap in 1995, I would have been content. It was something that was beyond my wildest dreams.

RYG: What does the Haka do for the players before a game?

JM: There's been a lot of speculation about the Haka, particularly since the game turned professional. People have said that it gives the All Blacks an unfair advantage, and have said that it should be taken away from New Zealand. I can tell you that it gives us no edge whatsoever.

Justin Marshall. Copyright: Huw Evans Picture Agency

I've done good Haka's and we've gone on to get beaten, and I've done really poor Haka's and we've gone on to play really well. You can have bad and good Haka's, but it doesn't have any bearing on the result whatsoever. More than anything you get quite tired after it, and need a drink.

It's all about history, and where the All Blacks have come from. You talk to any New Zealander and they know the history of the Haka. That's why we do it. It's not about getting an advantage before the game, it's all about tradition.

RYG How disciplined are you in training?

JM: I'm really disciplined with my training. The older I get the more disciplined I am, on and off the field. I do extra training by myself. When you get to a certain age, you need to keep yourself on edge.

I don't really adhere to some of the things that some people say you have to do as a professional. Some people say you need to have really good nutrition, massages twice a week, get certain amounts of recovery and stretching. I do that to an extent, I do watch what I eat, but I'm not really disciplined about it. If I feel like a steak the night before a game, I'll have a steak. I am disciplined in certain respects, and in other ways I'm just like a normal person.

RYG: How do you handle criticism?

JM: When I first played for the All Blacks, everything was golden. I was playing really well, the team was going really well, and then we went through a bad patch. I got criticised, the team got criticised, and I listened to it all. I felt really weighed down, wasn't enjoying myself.

The 1999 World Cup was one of the real low points in my career. I played all the games in the World Cup, and got dropped for the semi-final, which we lost. That combined with all the criticism I'd been getting in 1998 as well. I decided 'This isn't why I'm in the game, to listen to criticism.' I play the game because I enjoy it, and I'm a winner.

In 2000 I decided to go out, put all that behind me, and to just play the way I play. I told myself 'If the selectors want to pick me, then they'll pick me,' and I didn't listen to any criticism. Since 2000 I've really enjoyed my rugby, and I'm still playing eight years later. I probably played my best rugby for the All Blacks between 2000 and 2005. Criticism can get you down, don't listen to it!

RYG: What have been the highlights of your career so far?

JM: The first test I played for the All Blacks in 1995 against France. It was a great win for us and it was my test debut. To be selected for the first time was an achievement that I never thought I'd be able to accomplish as a young rugby player. It was easily my biggest moment.

RYG: What advice would you give to young people who want to make it as a rugby player?

JM: Just work hard. I feel that I've played with some amazing players throughout my career, particularly in New Zealand. I've played with some of the legends of our game. I played with Michael Jones, Sean Fitzpatrick and Andrew Mehrtens. I always felt that I was lucky to be in their company.

I always felt that I was naturally skilled, and that I had something about me that got me selected for the All Blacks, but I always felt that it wasn't something given to me. It was something I had to work for. I've always used that as motivation for myself. That's why I've always worked on my skills and stayed sharp. It's not something that's just going to happen for me. I can't just turn up and expect to go out there and let it happen. I've always had a great work ethic, and that's helped me to stay at the top.


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