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Saracens' bold prediction 'once Gregor sees Andy in the flesh'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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If there was one social media post that surely made every rugby fan smile this past week it was that of Saracens back-rower Andy Christie posting to Twitter the wonderfully enthusiastic reactions of his family as he told them about his first-ever call-up to the Scotland squad for the upcoming Six Nations.

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The 22-year old was named by Gregor Townsend last Wednesday as one of five uncapped players in the 39-strong squad that will prepare for a championship that begins with the February 5 match in Edinburgh against England.  

Townsend reasoned: “We have been aware of all of the uncapped players for a while now and recently they have all experienced a breakthrough in terms of their performances at club level.”

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That was a summary wholeheartedly endorsed by Saracens boss Mark McCall when he fielded questions about new Scotland pick Christie at his weekly media briefing ahead of Sunday’s Challenge Cup game versus London Irish.  

It was November 2018 when Christie debuted as a 19-year-old for Saracens, appearing as a sub in a Premiership Cup match versus Sale, but it has been in more recent times that the back-rower has really kicked on and his Scotland selection now comes on the back of ten club appearances this season, seven as a starter. 

This Test squad selection of Christie for Scotland thrilled Mark McCall, the long-serving Saracens boss. “It’s absolutely brilliant news,” he enthused in a week that was bittersweet for the club regarding their England squad representation. While Maro Itoje, Jamie George and Max Malins will link up with Eddie Jones in Brighton on Monday, Owen Farrell has had to pull out with a fresh injury setback while there were no recalls for the out-of-favour Vunipola brothers and Elliot Daly.   

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“I know Gregor has been impressed with Andy during the course of the season,” continued McCall. “He has been at the club for a long time, come through the system but he has made real progress I guess over the last 18 months but he has really sped through in the last six months, in particular, with just a series of good performances. We are absolutely chuffed for him.  

“It just kind of reminds me that if young players get an opportunity then they can often continue to get those opportunities and Andy is one of those players who has managed to do that. He has impressed us all the last 18 months, has really matured. 

“He is only 23 now but there has been a really growing up the last 18 months, a much more level in his approach to everything to be honest. He is a fantastic athlete, a very skilful player but he has added some really important things to that in terms of the consistency of his collision-winning and low error rate, that kind of thing. He deserves it and once Gregor sees him in the flesh, I wouldn’t be surprised if he accelerates quickly into their 23.

“He is just a good guy, somebody who has got his head down and works really hard. He is full of energy, as you can see from his performances,” continued McCall, who added that he wasn’t exactly sure if it was when Townsend was scouting for the Lions and watching Saracens in Championship action last April and May when Scotland first took a shine to Christie.   

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“I don’t know. Andy has been on the radar for a relatively short space of time but I know Gregor has been watching him closely. We have obviously got Sean Maitland here as well and  Callum Hunter-Hill, so there is interest from the Scottish coaches in some of our players and Andy was probably the one that took them by surprise just how well he has done.” 

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