17 Mar 2023

Finlay Christie: No 'x factor', just hard work

11:14 am on 17 March 2023
2022 Autumn International, BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh, Scotland 13/11/2022 
Scotland vs New Zealand   
New Zealand's Finlay Christie 
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Craig Watson

Finlay Christie is ready for a big year. Photo: Inpho / www.photosport.nz

Finlay Christie knows his strengths.

He also knows his limitations and he believes that's been the key to his rise to becoming a regular in Ian Foster's All Blacks.

Born in Scotland before moving to Pukekohe as a seven-year-old, halfback Christie recalls he wasn't blessed with some of the physical attributes his contemporaries displayed.

"I tried to focus more on my core roles growing up as I've never really had that x factor.

"A few of the young halfbacks coming through are pretty good ball runners and have that game breaking ability. I see myself as not quite like that."

So, if he doesn't have those qualities, why is he an All Black?

"The individual should do what works for them and that's something I've had to learn as I've gained experience. Figure out what you're good at and keep practicing that and if you don't go away from that too much, you'll be in pretty good stead.

"If you try and be another player or copy things that other people are doing, that's when you can get yourself into trouble. I've figured that out in the last few years.

"I'm better than some players at some things and I'm not as good as some players at other things. I've just tried to knuckle down and back myself and focus on what I am good at."

And that's what the Blues halfback will continue to do this season as he seeks to lift his game to a new level.

"Knuckle down on my core roles, pass and kick. A few technical things in there as well and some things around my defensive work and a few other little work ons. I am always working on my pass. One of my strengths is to get the ball up and out quickly and that's my key area to work on and keep building there."

Autumn Nations Series, Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy 6/11/2021
Italy vs New Zealand
New Zealand's Hoskins Sotutu celebrates with Finlay Christie after scoring a try
Copyright photo: Matteo Ciambelli / www.photosport.nz

Christie (R) and Hoskins Sotutu playing for the All Blacks. Photo: © Photosport Ltd 2021

Christie has 14 test caps and wants to be on the plane to the World Cup in France later this year.

If he does make it, it will be by being himself.

"Definitely a goal. But, I just try and take it week by week. It's what I've done the last couple of years and I try and just look at what I need to do now and if I play well and tick those boxes. After that, then things might happen and things might not, but as long as I know I've done what I can each week, I'll be happy.

"As soon as you get caught up thinking about things like that (All Blacks selection) or start thinking, 'Oh I've had a bad game I might not be here or there or whatever', that can't be good. So, just taking it week by week and trying to get better every day."

The Blues host the Crusaders at Eden Park on Saturday in a repeat of last year's final, which the visitors won to seal their 11th Super Rugby crown and fourth on the trot.

Christie believes the rivalry between the two sides is as strong as ever.

"It is. Especially after the final last year. It's a match that's certainly been circled in the calendar. We want to get one up over the Crusaders and win one back. It's a big game."

The Crusaders have won one game and lost two with the Blues doing better with two wins from three. Christie believes both sides are yet to hit their straps.

"We haven't quite clicked yet. We haven't fully achieved what we want to in a match yet. But, we're not far off. We took a few good steps in last week's win over the Hurricanes, but didn't get it all right and it was a close result because of that."

It's often better to play the typically slow starting Crusaders early in the season and while a Blues win on Saturday won't make them champions, Christie agrees it would go a long way to verifying their credentials as title contenders.

"At this stage of the season it's about trying to get good performances back to back and getting wins on the board early. If you can do that it takes a bit of pressure off later in the season, you're not scrambling to make the playoffs and that sort of thing."

While Christie is adamant he won't be trying to emulate any of his rivals, he does have a clear view on who's currently the world's best halfback.

"A lot of people will be going with old mate from France, Antoine Dupont and from what I have seen of his game, it's pretty hard to beat.

"He's got everything. He's got a strong running game, strong kicking game, strong defensive game. He's bloody powerful and explosive and rapid. He's good to watch."

If Christie can help the Blues to a Super Rugby title, he might just get a crack at Dupont in the All Blacks opening game of the World Cup against hosts France in September.