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'The ultimate goal is to put on the black jersey': Crusaders star's All Blacks dream

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

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Crusaders tearaway Tom Christie has outlined his ambitions for All Blacks honours after bouncing back from a season-ending injury last year.

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Christie has been in standout form for the Crusaders thus far this season, sitting at the top of the Super Rugby Pacific tackle count with 96 tackles to his name – 18 of which came in his side’s 34-19 win over the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday.

No other player comes within 20 tackles of the 24-year-old openside flanker, who, despite his average of just over 19 tackles per match, was modest in his assessment of his season thus far.

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“It’s been really good just to come back, get out there, find my stride with a couple of games,” Christie told media on Monday.

“Playing back-to-back-to-back is always really nice, and you get into that rhythm as a player. You build those patterns yourself.

“Any time you get to play consecutive games, it always helps as a player, so it’s really good. It gets my confidence up as well, out there, so I’m just enjoying my rugby at the moment.”

Such a high defensive work rate is a staple of the former New Zealand U20 captain’s game, and that facet of his game is what propelled him into All Blacks contention in his debut Super Rugby campaign two years ago.

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While he wasn’t called into the national squad, he started for the South Island as they scored a last-gasp 38-35 upset win over the North Island in the 2020 North vs South match.

That one-off clash effectively doubled as an All Blacks trial, and Christie’s selection for the South Island illustrated how highly All Blacks boss Ian Foster and his assistants rated the promising youngster.

However, a dislocated shoulder sustained during last March’s win over the Blues in Christchurch prevented Christie from building on his breakout campaign as he was sidelined for the remainder of the year.

Now fit and firing, Christie is eager to make up for lost time and work his way back into the national selection frame, something he is certainly capable of amid a highly-competitive field of loose forwards across New Zealand.

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“I’m a pretty goals-driven person. There’s always something that I’m wanting to achieve. Just like any boy growing up in New Zealand, the ultimate goal is to put on the black jersey at some stage in my career,” Christie said.

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“For me, when that comes, or if it comes, I’m not sure, but I’m just looking to get better and better every week and just keep improving my game.

“Ultimately, that’s what I want to do, just get better as a player, and if something comes of that, something comes of that.”

Christie’s quest for higher honours continues this weekend when the Crusaders host the Highlanders in the latest iteration of Super Rugby Pacific’s South Island derby.

It’s a highly-anticipated fixture that the Crusaders have already won once this year, having come from behind to beat their Dunedin-based neighbours 34-19 at Forsyth Barr Stadium in round two.

Christie is wary of the threat the last-placed Highlanders pose, though, especially after they shocked his side 33-12 in Christchurch almost exactly a year ago in what was the biggest loss of Scott Robertson’s six-year reign as Crusaders head coach.

“There’s definitely that tender spot there with the boys. I know even from watching that last year, it does leave that kind of bitter feeling in your stomach, so we’re just looking forward to getting out there,” Christie said.

“The Landers are a quality team and we know it’s going to be a great match, so we’re just excited to be a part of that and excited to get out there and get the job done.”

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