Updated: Scottish hopes dashed as Borders rugby star Finlay Christie picks All Blacks rather than Dark Blues
Any faint hopes that rising rugby star Finlay Christie might one day play for the land of his birth have been dashed now he’s made his full debut for New Zealand and turned out for them again at the weekend.
The expatriate Borderer came on as a 55th-minute substitute for the All Blacks during their 102-0 demolition of Tonga on Saturday, July 3, and also made an appearance from the bench, 68 minutes in, during their 57-23 defeat of Fiji a week later.
That initial 25-minute appearance in Auckland the weekend before last rules out any prospect of the 25-year-old scrum-half – born in the same hospital, the Borders General at Melrose, as current British and Irish Lions stars Stuart Hogg and Rory Sutherland – representing Scotland alongside other players born or brought up abroad such as Duhan van der Merwe, Hamish Watson and Cameron Redpath.
That was a possibility the Auckland Blues star hadn’t ruled out as recently as last year, replying, when asked by our sister paper the Scotsman if he’d entertain the possibility of following in the footsteps of previous Borders scrum-halves such as Roy Laidlaw, Gary Armstrong, Bryan Redpath and Greig Laidlaw: “Never say never, but I have another year on my Blues contract and that’s really my only focus right now, to try and establish myself and build a career here.”
It’s safe to say never now, though, as the only prospect of Christie sharing a pitch with the Scots will be in the opposition’s ranks should they come up against his new homeland.
If such an occasion arises, it wouldn’t be the first time he’s faced fellow Borderers on a rugby pitch as he was in the Waikato Chiefs team beaten 34-6 by a British and Irish Lions line-up featuring Jedburgh’s Greig Laidlaw in June 2017.
Christie was brought up in Peebles but has lived in New Zealand for the best part of two decades as, after a year up in Aberdeen, he emigrated with his family at the age of seven to Pukekohe in South Auckland.
He began his senior rugby career with National Provincial Championship side Tasman in 2016, moving on to Super Rugby the year after with Chiefs, switching to Wellington’s Hurricanes in 2018 and present club side Blues last year.
Christie was in the Blues side that won their first Super Rugby title in 18 years last month by beating Dunedin’s Highlanders 23-15 in the Trans-Tasman competition’s final.
Kiwis’ head coach Ian Foster said after last weekend’s game: “I want to congratulate all players selected for this Steinlager Series squad, especially, the new All Blacks including Finlay and Quinn.
“It’s an incredibly special day for them and their families.”
There is still a chance of the Christie family being represented among the Dark Blues, however, as the new All Black’s elder brother Gregor, a scrum-half too, has already earned a Scotland Club XV call-up and might yet find himself in the running for a senior cap.
Having moved back to Scotland from New Zealand in 2018, the 27-year-old now plays for Edinburgh’s Watsonians after a spell with Balerno’s Currie Chieftains, also helping out on occasion at his uncle Sandy Fleming’s Hislop Farm at Teviothead.
Fleming is also chairman at Teviothead Village Hall and Caroline Tullie, its secretary, was quick to congratulate his family on their scion’s debut for New Zealand, posting on its Facebook page: “Huge congratulations to Finlay Christie.
“What an incredible achievement but so deserved.
“As many of you will know, his roots are in this valley. His mum, Liz Fleming, grew up at Hislop and a proud uncle Sandy and family still farm there and at Falnash.
“Congratulations, Fin, from everyone at Teviothead.”
Fleming, 60, added: “We’re all very, very proud of Finlay.
“He’s worked very hard to get to where he is.”