"Debut off the Bench" - Richard Wigglesworth: England Coach has All Blacks Nines Christie and Ratima Scouted with TJ Perenara Injured - Ruck

“Debut off the Bench” – Richard Wigglesworth: England Coach has All Blacks Nines Christie and Ratima Scouted with TJ Perenara Injured

The All Blacks have been forced to alternate their back-line for the second Test against England, with TJ Perenara injured in the battle of Dunedin. The Hurricanes halfback picked up a knee injury against Steve Borthwick’s side, and is expected to play no part in the series closer at Eden Park on Saturday.

In his place, All Blacks head coach Scott Robertson is expected to start Blues scrum half Finlay Christie, who replaced Perenara at half-time in the Forsyth Barr Stadium. Christie is in fine form, and comes into the match hot after winning the 2024 Super Rugby title with the Auckland club. In support of Christie is rumoured to be Cortez Ratima, with the Chiefs man hopeful to get his first All Blacks cap in the 21 jersey.

If there was ever an accomplished scrum half to cast his opinion over the two halfbacks, England attack coach Richard Wigglesworth is the man to do just that. The former Sale Shark, Leicester Tiger and Saracen won a total of seven Premiership titles throughout his career, and was recently inducted into the Premiership Rugby Hall of Fame, class of 2024. Wigglesworth has been on a recognisance mission ahead of the second New Zealand Test, and shared his findings on the two scrum halves.

“We have looked at Finlay Christie who is a good player and now experienced. He is a title winning scrum half. There don’t lose loads of experience but they lose a bit. He will play slightly differently. He gets the ball away slightly quicker and he managed the middle third in that game well. I don’t think it will change too much of what they do. Finlay gets the ball away really quickly and gets them going.”

“He (Cortez Ratima) is a good player. Straws (Andrew Strawbridge) has filled us in on him. There is a guy called Mark Roberts who is an analyst here in New Zealand. He was my analyst when I was with Canada at the 2019 World Cup. When he got home he said, ‘I am working with some young number nines, can I send you their kicking for you to check out and give me some pointers?’

“One of them was the lad who is going to make his debut off the bench. I didn’t know it was him. I met up with Mark the other day and he told me. Funny how things work. Hopefully he kicks badly! I am sure I gave him nothing useful. But it is a nice story of how rugby circles work. He is a good player, competitive. You get called up to the All Blacks, you know he can play.”