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Christie ready for extra responsibility

Oceania Rugby

Lynn McConnell     24 May 2018     Oceania Rugby

Christie is a product of the Canterbury system, having followed the Shirley Boys' High School path taken by Ryan Crotty and Chris Jack. He played for the Christchurch club in his pre and post-High School rugby and is now part of the Crusaders' Academy. 

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That ensured there were plenty of openside flankers from the club to look up to, especially Richie McCaw and Matt Todd in recent years.

"I've been pretty lucky in that aspect. I've been part of the Crusaders summer training squad for the last two years and I've spent a few weeks with Matt and he's an amazing individual as well. He's really open to learning and helping out," he said.

Captaincy was an honour because he never expected anything like that to happen and when it did the 'massive excitement' was tempered by the honour associated with it.

"I'm really looking forward to the opportunities and challenges it is going to bring," he said.

At the annual Oceania tournament in early May, which New Zealand won, Christie said the focus had been about bonding off the field as much as it was about succeeding on the field and making some steps towards defending their World title.

As a member of last year's winning team he said there were a lot of little things that he would be applying in this year's effort.

The Georgia tournament had been notable for the quality players he played alongside, including Luke Jacobson, Dalton Papali’i and Asafo Aumua.

"You can learn a wee bit individually off each of those guys as well which I'll bring forward and look to use this year and kind of mould into my own [leadership]," he said.

Georgia had been different, and not the sort of place that many New Zealanders had been to.
"It was definitely different. It was still an amazing experience to get to see a place in the world like that. I think that was one thing that did make it special. A lot of New Zealanders don't go there so for us to go there and actually see that part of the world was pretty special.

"With us being tied into the All Blacks' brand and being under the All Blacks a lot of their people knew who we were and got quite excited so we were quite lucky that we had a lot of support over there that we wouldn't normally expect."

It was an experience that was almost surreal, especially at their age but at the same time it also gave an idea of what the next step, up to All Blacks status might be like.

While the All Blacks brand was always recognised in France, there would be more awareness of, and hope for, the home side in the Perpignan region in the south of France where the tournament is being played.

"I don't know a lot about France but from what I have heard the south of France is a good place to be and we are expecting it to be humid, with hotter weather but hopefully it will be nice and dry for us to play that kind of New Zealand brand of rugby," he said.

While there were disappointments over the players who had not been considered due to injuries, Christie said those chosen reflected the talent that could be called on in New Zealand and an example of that was at fullback.

Last year's fullback Will Jordan was one of those unavailable but the side would be able to call on All Blacks Sevens representative Vilimoni Koroi and Kaleb Trask who each had their own amazing skill sets, he said.



"They'll fill that role and bring their own uniqueness and although we don't have Will we are not in a struggle in that position. It's still to going to be a really exciting part of our team," he said.

Koroi had his sevens experience to contribute along with the help he could provide for individuals as a result of his exposure to higher levels of the game.

"He's an amazing character and people want to be around him and they can learn a lot from him," he said.

While they had beaten Australia in the Oceania Cup final, and were drawn in the same pool with them, along with Japan and Wales, they wouldn't be taking too much consideration of that.

Their first priority was dealing with the Japan challenge in their first game, and then Wales, before they are due to play the Australians.

The rivalry from the trans-Tasman partners had plenty of lessons to offer from the past so they wouldn't be taking too much notice of their earlier win, he said.

"We know that we've got to come out and bring a level of physicality to knock them back off again because we're really going to have to earn that one," he said.

New Zealand kick off their World Rugby Under 20 Championships campaign against Japan at 7am on Thursday 31 May. Watch live on TVNZ Duke.