Rugby World Cup: Why All Blacks have to keep faith with Finlay Christie for semi-final clash against Argentina

The All Blacks are being urged to persist with Finlay Christie as reserve halfback, as they prepare for Saturday's (NZ time) Rugby World Cup semi-final against Argentina.

A week ago, in naming their side for the blockbuster quarter-final against Ireland, coach Ian Foster sprung the surprise selection of Christie as Aaron Smith's support, ahead of rising star Cam Roigard.

Roigard has caught the eye more than once at this tournament, notably scoring a double for a rotated side in a huge victory over Namibia.

But come the quarter-final, coach Ian Foster backed Christie's abilities in defence, as well as his overall test experience, as the man to fill jersey No.21 for the All Blacks' biggest game in four years.

Finlay Christie and Cam Roigard.
Finlay Christie and Cam Roigard. Photo credit: Getty Images

However, that selection wasn't given a chance to yield any reward, as a yellow card to Aaron Smith for a deliberate knock-on gave the veteran halfback enough in-game rest to allow him to stay on the field to the final whistle.  

And given Christie - by default - didn't put a foot wrong against Ireland, former All Blacks winger Jeff Wilson says Foster will likely persist with the 28-year-old for this weekend's semi-final against Los Pumas.

"I'd be surprised if they make a change," Wilson told Newshub. "If you've picked Finlay Christie for the biggest game in the tournament, and there's attributes you really like, particularly on the defensive side of the board.

"That obviously changed when Aaron Smith spent 10 minutes in the bin. All of a sudden, they felt he could go the distance, and last the distance. He was at a level that you rarely can get to.

"I would absolutely expect Finlay to absolutely be on the bench again this week."

Christie versus Roigard won't be the only selection conundrum facing the All Blacks this week, either. 

Leicester Fainga'anuku.
Leicester Fainga'anuku. Photo credit: Getty Images

On the left wing, Mark Telea has come back into the picture, after he was stood down for breaching team protocols last week.

In his absence, Leicester Fainga'anuku took his chance with both hands, scoring once and making 11 tackles as the All Blacks secured a 28-24 win.

Like with the halfbacks, the tradeoff between picking the best players and rewarding performances against the Irish is a delicate balance.

And similar to picking Christie over Roigard, Wilson expects Foster to back his winning side to continue for another week at the very least.  

"They're two very different types of threats," said Wilson. "Leicester did some really, really positive and good things.

"It's just whether or not you feel as though Mark Telea has paid his dues. He's gone and proven to the coaching staff, the selection team that his focus is well and truly back on a performance on the weekend.

"I know he won't want to let this team down, but Leicester has done everything possibly asked of him.

"I'd probably leave Leicester out there. He did take his opportunity, he was instrumental in what was a huge, successful game for the All Blacks." 

The All Blacks' team to face Argentina will be named on Thursday morning (NZ time).

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