Feature Interview | Andy Christie
A star in the making at academy level at the club, he has progressed nicely and taken the next step from England age grade honours to win five senior caps to date with Scotland.
He graduated through the academy and made his first senior appearance as a replacement for the South African World Cup winner, Schalk Burger. It was something of a passing on of the baton and Christie certainly hasn’t disappointed.
But how does he feel about the summer signing of Argentine World Cup flanker Juan Martin Gonzalez and England international Tom Willis?
As if it wasn’t already hard enough to hold down a place in the Sarries back row against fierce opposition from Billy Vunipola, Ben Earl and Theo McFarland! And then, of course, those twin peaks from the second row, Maro Itoje and Nick Isiekwe, often enjoy a run out away from the boilerhouse of the scrum.
Young Toby Knight, a recent England U20 captain, is another back row man who has to contend with so much star-dust in every training session. But there’s the rub – it’s the competition that is the making of them.
As Christie says, an easy life is no life. He hasn’t known anything different during his time at the club and doesn’t want it to change.
“You have to do what you have to do to get into the side at Saracens. Whoever they bring in, you know the competition for places is going to be strong,” admitted Christie.
“It’s been like that throughout my time at the club and is no different in other places. Just look at the options at loose head prop, second row and hooker.
“But that’s what you want – to be challenged, to have players around you who are going to spur you on. The best clubs always have strength in depth, and that has always been the case in the back row in my time at Sarries.”
Back-to-back man of the match awards are proof enough that the now 24-year- old Christie has not only learned his trade, but is now taking a starring role at a club that has boasted some of the greatest and most consistent back row players of the past decade or more.
On top of that, he hasn’t let the disappointment of missing out on Scotland’s World Cup campaign in France set him back. A broken arm in April forced him out of the running for the Gallagher Premiership final win over Sale Sharks and cost him his chance of playing on the game’s biggest stage . . . this time at least!
He has certainly won over the director of rugby, Mark McCall, who recently awarded him a new, long- term contract.
“I’ve seen him mature a lot over the last 18 months, but in particular the last six months. We see him as a real leader of the club going forward,” said McCall.
“He’s one of the few 24 or 25-year-olds that we have got who have been at the club all their lives and, hopefully, will be here for the next 10 years.”
If he does that then he should be able to turn his 75 games for the club into something to rival the likes of Alex Goode, Jackson Wray, Jamie George and Owen Farrell.
Before he looks too far into the future, his other goal this season is to try to break back into the Scottish squad for the Six Nations. His ill-luck with injury in April shattered his World Cup dream, but not his desire to get back onto the international stage.
“The injury this year was the most difficult time of my career to date and I have to thank everyone at Saracens for the way they helped me through it. They let me feel down when I wanted to, and then built me back up throughout my rehab when necessary,” he added.
“There was an outside chance of me getting back in time to play in the Premiership final, but that didn’t happen. Then the World Cup came and went.
“I’d love to win as many caps as possible for Scotland, and the Six Nations is an obvious target, but what I learned more than anything earlier this year is not to plan too far ahead.”