The Western Force have completed the overhaul of their Super Rugby backline for the 2013 season with the signing of Waikato flyhalf Sam Christie who claimed the final Extended Playing Squad contract for 2013.
Christie, who is Australian-eligible through his Adelaide-born father, is the ninth new member to the Western Force's back division for the upcoming Super Rugby season.
The former New Zealand Schools representative is one of four strong flyhalf options for the Western Force in 2013 along with former Cheetahs playmaker and Baby Bok Sias Ebersohn, returning Wallaby Sam Norton-Knight and outstanding rising star and Australian Under 20 representative, Kyle Godwin.
Christie made his ITM Cup debut with Waikato in 2006 and has seven seasons of provincial experience for the Mooloos under his belt.
The 26-year-old began training with the Western Force a month prior to the Christmas break before being offered the EPS contract.
Head Coach Michael Foley says Christie's signing adds another quality and experienced choice at flyhalf for the Western Force.
"Being such a pivotal position, we wanted to ensure we had depth at flyhalf this season," he said. "We've now got four quality options at ‘10' – as well as the ability to cover a number of other positions – through the retention of Kyle Godwin and the recruitment of Sias Ebersohn, Sam Norton-Knight and now Sam Christie.
"Sam's form with Waikato was impressive during the ITM Cup, including a strong showing in their Ranfurly Shield win over Taranaki. We invited him to train with us in the lead-in to Christmas and he demonstrated that he's not only ready to take the next step to Super Rugby when called upon to do so, but is hungry and eager for that opportunity.
"Sam's a confident, attacking player. He's strong under pressure, he's got an accurate passing game and he'll be pushing hard for game time this season."
Christie signs on with the Force having previously represented New Zealand Schools (2004), Bay of Plenty Under 23 (2005) and Waikato Under 20 (2006) prior to making his provincial debut for the North Island province in 2006.
Christie says he's keen to continue his rugby development in the Western Force program.
"I'm really excited [about this opportunity]," he said. "I've been working hard for a number of years to make it into Super Rugby and to have this opportunity is a really exciting step.
"I like the running style of rugby and the Force is going to bring a great style of rugby this year. We've got some very sharp backs and a versatile forward pack and we've got a chance to play some good attacking rugby which I'm really excited about.
"I'm really happy this opportunity has come for me at the Force. The training and medical staff here are of high quality and they give you plenty of feedback on what you're doing. It was a big learning curve for me when I was here for four weeks [before Christmas]; it was a great experience and I was keen to come back.
"It's a great environment, the guys are really committed and down-to-earth and this is great for me and for my rugby."
Christie joins James Hilterbrand (hooker), Salesi Manu (prop), Mick Snowden (scrumhalf) and Rory Walton (lock) as the Western Force's five EPS-contracted players for 2013.
2013 Western Force squad:
Forwards: Chris Alcock*, Phoenix Battye, Richard Brown, Nathan Charles, Angus Cottrell, Pek Cowan, Tetera Faulkner, James Hilterbrand (EPS)*, Matt Hodgson, Kieran Longbottom, Toby Lynn, Salesi Ma'afu, Salesi Manu (EPS), Lachlan McCaffrey, Ben McCalman, Hugh McMeniman*, Rory Walton (EPS)*, Ben Whittaker, Sam Wykes.
Backs: Sam Christie (EPS)*, Nick Cummins, Patrick Dellit, Sias Ebersohn*, Kyle Godwin, Jayden Hayward*, Alfie Mafi, Alby Mathewson*, Sam Norton-Knight*, Ed Stubbs*, Solomoni Rasolea*, Brett Sheehan, Mick Snowden (EPS)*, Winston Stanley, Chris Tuatara-Morrison*, Will Tupou.
*new signing for 2013