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'Best 9 in the country on form': Ex-All Black halfback's view on Finlay Christie

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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Former All Black halfback Justin Marshall has agreed that Blues halfback Finlay Christie is the form number 9 in New Zealand this year, but warned that it doesn’t mean he will be given the All Blacks starting role.

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On hearing former Blues and All Black Steve Devine’s opinion that Christie had surpassed Aaron Smith in the pecking order on SENZ’s The Bunnings Trade Rugby Run radio show, Marshall sided with the Devine’s view that Christie is in a purple patch of form that is above everybody else.

“I certainly think he [Christie] is the in form 9 in the country,” Marshall said on SENZ’s The Bunnings Trade Rugby Run.

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“Equally so was Brad Weber, he was playing well before his injury. He’s just super consistent, he delivers.

“I think in terms of the balance and the threat that he is at the moment, Finlay Christie, he is arguably the best 9 in the country on form.

“Whether or not that gives him the All Black number 9 jersey is definitely up for debate, because the All Blacks build their rhythm around what Aaron Smith delivers.”

“That doesn’t mean he can’t pressure him for an opportunity to start, but I would imagine if you are picking the side at the moment, he would definitely be in that matchday 23.”

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Marshall believed there would be a spot for Christie on the bench to come into games late and provide impact based on his Super Rugby Pacific form.

He highlighted his performance against the Crusaders in Christchurch as the game where Christie showed he is operating at a higher level.

“He’s playing good rugby, and he particularly stepped up his game against the Crusaders I thought. He was a real threat around the breakdown, he took steps and brought players into the game,” he said.

“His defence was very good. He’s a gritty little defender. His kicking game is as good as the rest in the country.

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“So I wouldn’t disagree with Steve Devine that at the moment he’s the form player in that jersey in the country, he is above the level that everyone else is playing at.

“But I don’t believe that gives him the right to step into that All Black number 9 jersey right now.”

The long time back-up to Aaron Smith has been TJ Perenara, who has played 56 of his 77 tests as a reserve halfback since debuting in 2014.

Despite pushing Christie’s claims forward to take over the reserve halfback role, Marshall didn’t believe that Perenara would be done either.

“No, I don’t,” Marshall proclaimed when asked if he thought Perenara’s time was up.

“TJ is too competitive to be done, he brings qualities to the jersey that others don’t have in the country, and you certainly can’t count out a guy that has been to World Cups and delivered.

“Again, he is a player that has continually been selected in All Blacks teams … probably over the last decade I would imagine. I’d be very reluctant to rule out TJ Perenara from any mix, in any equation that the All Blacks come up with.”

“He’ll be very well aware that there are other players in the country playing well like Finlay Christie, Brad Weber and Folau Fakatava,

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