NO FAIR-MINDED sports fan – not even the most one-eyed of Scots – could seriously object to the fact that Finlay Christie will run out at Murrayfield tomorrow in the famous All Black shirt of New Zealand rather than the navy blue jersey of his birthland, given that the scrum-half has spent 21 of his 28 years on this planet living in the Land Of The Long White Cloud.

But just in case any smart aleck might be thinking of making an issue out of it, Kiwi head coach Ian Foster made sure he was first out the blocks during yesterday’s team announcement press conference.

“We got one and you guys got about 50 – but we quite like our one so we appreciate the donation,” he quipped. “Finlay is a quality person and he has played his way into the squad with some really good performances. The fact we named him to start is a sign of our confidence in him. He is proud of his background up here in Scotland, but he is also very proud to be a New Zealander,” the coach added.

Christie was born in the Borders General Hospital just outside Melrose and spent his formative years in nearby Peebles, then briefly Aberdeen, before emigrating with his family to New Zealand aged seven. His mother, Liz, and father, Chris, still speak with Scottish accents, and his older brother, Gregor, currently lives in Scotland and plays club rugby for Currie Chieftains in the Premiership.

The whole clan will be at Murrayfield tomorrow, and Finlay – who has replaced Aaron Smith in the All Blacks starting XV – says he isn’t sure which team they will be rooting for.

“I think they’ll be happy either way, so its win-win for them,” he smiled. “It has been on my bucket list for wee while to play at Murrayfield, so it will be pretty cool. I’d say it will be a bit more special for the parents but I’m looking forward to it.”

Christie and his family settled in Pukekohe in South Auckland after their switch from Scotland, and he represented New Zealand in gymnastics at age-grade level before focusing on rugby. He won the Hawkins Medal as Canterbury’s top club player whilst playing for the University of Canterbury, helped Tasman to their first and second ever Mitre 10 Cup triumphs in 2019 and 2020, and has played Super Rugby since 2018 with the Hurricanes and then the Blues.

Given Scottish Rugby’s obsession with identifying and then recruiting players who have learned the game outside Scotland, it was inevitable that the scrum-half would receive a call from the motherland sooner rather than later – and when it came Christie had to think it through before ultimately deciding that he wanted to continue pushing for an All Blacks call-up.

“It was sort of through Covid and things didn’t really work out, so I guess I’m happy where I stayed and it’s worked out quite well so far,” he explains, clearly uncomfortable with any sort of suggestion that his head might have been turned from the dream of playing for the All Blacks.

Christie’s perseverance was rewarded in July 2021 when he made his international debut in a 102-0 demolition of Tonga, and tomorrow will be his 14th Test but only his third international start.

He will line-up with a familiar ally at half-back in the shape of Blues team-mate Beauden Barrett, who has moved forward from full-back to stand-off. In total, Foster has made seven changes to the side he sent out against Wales last weekend, with Mark Telea being handed his international debut on the right wing.

Jordie Barrett moves from inside-centre to take over from his brother at full-back and outside-centre Rieko Ioane drops to the bench, so David Havili and Anton Leinart-Brown come in to form an all-new midfield line-up

In the pack, Samisoni Taukei’aho starts at hooker ahead of Codie Taylor, Nepo Laulala takes over from Tyrel Lomax at tight-head, and Akira Ioane replaces Shannon Frizell at blindside.