Aaron Smith impressed by debutant Christie

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Traditionally, players know early in the week whether they are in the starting 23, but, so far, Ian Foster and his selectors have been keeping their thoughts to themselves.

 

The players generally know well before the public team naming on a Thursday.

 

Halfback Aaron Smith, who didn't play against Tonga at the weekend, said he still didn't know if he would be playing against Fiji, and the changed process had been a nice surprise.

 

"There is a lot of competition for positions in this team, and that's exciting," he said.

 

"If you looked at who played at the weekend, and played very well, and who was sitting in the stands, it's very exciting around the depth we're creating."

 

One of those who stepped up was fellow halfback Finlay Christie, and having roomed with him in Auckland, Smith said it was exciting to see how he went when substituting for Brad Weber.

 

"He came on and looked calm, owned his moments. I was happy for him.

 

"That's what All Blacks' rugby is about. I remember how Piri [Weepu] brought me through and made me feel welcome in my first week.

 

 

"New Zealand's very halfback-rich at the moment. But we're trying to help each other," he said.

 

As a more physical style of halfback, Christie was fearless, Smith said.

 

"I wouldn't say he's fiery. He's very calm. He's just not scared of the moment to be physical. He's very calm on the ball, he's got a good process going into pass. If anything, he's a calm, fast, hardworking halfback."

 

Smith said the All Blacks were happy with their first-up performance, the 102-0 win over Tonga and said it was tough on the under-strength Tonga side but the All Blacks had made every effort to connect with their rivals after the game while also mixing with the Pasifika community in South Auckland ahead of the game.

 

Fiji would be a different proposition, the 97-Test veteran said.

 

"It's exciting but scary. I've played with a few Fijian players, and they're great to watch.

 

"Playing against a team with that athleticism, speed and power, will be very exciting. But, it's also about getting the mindset right to make some tackles on some big men and some very good athletes," he said.

 

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