Christian Cullen: Fast Facts
Full Name: Christian Mathias Cullen
Birthday: Thursday, February 12th, 1976
Weight: 85 kg
Last School Attended: Kapiti College
Provinces: Manawatu, Wellington
Super 12 team: Wellington Hurricanes
All Black debut: Friday, June 7 1996, vs Samoa @ Napier (age 20 years, 116 days)
Last Test: Saturday, November 16 2002, vs France @ Paris (age 26 years, 277 days)
All Blacks tests: 58
All Blacks games: 60
All Black test points: 236 (46 tries, 3 conversions, 0 penalties, 0 dropped goals)
All Blacks total points: 266 points (52 tries, 3 conversions, 0 penalties, 0 dropped goals)
All Black number: 952
Christian Cullen. Any trueborn Kiwi could tell you who he is. Simply put, in our eyes, he is a legend. Why? It's hard to explain in some ways. Anyone who has ever had to face him on the rugby field can tell you why. True, he's not as big as some rugby players - he is just under 6 feet tall and only 85 kg but he is a back, after all. But it's not size that amazes players, coaches, and fans alike, it's the skill and power that is apparent from the second he gets near the ball.
Christian Cullen, or Cully to his fans and mates, has represented New Zealand in rugby for years. He played for the New Zealand Secondary Schools, the New Zealand Under 19s, the New Zealand Colts, and then right up to the New Zealand All Blacks in 1996. He has also played for the New Zealand Maori, being about 1/64th Maori. He was an All Black from 1996 right up until 2002, six seasons in a row. But when this years All Black squad was read out, his name was noticeably absent.
Instantly this caused outrage among Kiwis all over the globe. Where was our brilliant fullback? John Mitchell, All Blacks coach, refused to discuss the subject, insisting, "Cullen has not been on form." I don't believe that for a minute. I saw Christian play, not on TV but at a proper rugby game, in August, just before the RWC selection.
He played fullback with the touring NZ Maori side this season. He was great on defense, scored a try, assisted a couple more, and was making the tackles and playing a great game. It goes for the NPC - played really well! I didn't pay as much attention during the S12, so I can't say that - but I think John Mitchell has a problem with his eyesight. Sure, I admit he picked some great players this year - Joe, Carlos, Mils, Tana, Dougie, and Dan Carter are just a few. But why couldn't he have picked Cully over Ben Blair, or Corey Flynn? Sure, Mils is a great fullback, but he has a different style than Cullen. Leon MacDonald has been playing at centre since Tana's been injured - he's valuable for his goal kicking however. Ben Blair is out already with a neck injury. And Ben Atiga - he's no hotshot himself. We're missing a few valuable players this season - Anton Oliver, who, again, was said to be "not on form", and former ABs captain Taine Randell.
So why did John Mitchell REALLY keep Cullen out? Many suspect personal problems, and I agree, though Mitchell has been fiercely denying any such thing. However, Cullen claims the two have always had personality problems, even stating that John Mitchell deliberately humiliated him in front of the entire All Blacks team. That made me lose a whole lot of respect for Mitchell.
What makes me even madder is that Mitchell CONTINUED to disrespect Cully, badmouthing him in several interviews after this. That is no way to act.
But when it comes to rugby there should be no room for personal problems. I get along great with my entire rugby team - coaches and players alike. Sure, a couple of the blokes and I have "heated discussions" on occasion, but when it comes right down to it we're all good mates. Though we all complain when we're made to run laps (it's always our own fault anyway) we still respect our coach and think he's great. And this is junior club level - hello, personal disputes shouldn't be an issue in professional rugby!
When it came around to RWC squad selection everyone was hopeful Cullen would be picked as one of the last lucky four ruggers to go to the RWC. But once again, his name was missing from the All Blacks roster. John Mitchell had been given enough chances - what the heck does he think he's playing at?! Here's a thought -- what would have happened if we'd had Cullen in our RWC squad? Would we have won? Maybe, maybe not. But it's a thought.
Anyways, Mitchell, good on you mate, because guess what? Thanks to you refusing to select an amazing rugby player who is an all-around good guy, who is praised as a legend the world over, we've lost him from New Zealand rugby. Christian has signed a three-year contract with the Irish club, Munster.
On the hopeful side, the next World Cup is in four years. If he is still playing, and if we haven't got a coach with something up his bum, maybe, just maybe, we'll see Cully put on the black jersey again for the 2007 RWC. Maybe...
And until then Christian, we wish you luck wherever you may go in the world. We'll miss seeing you on the field in the Wellington and New Zealand colors. And know that even though you're gone from NZ rugby, the legend lives on in my heart - and those of four million Kiwis the world over.
All Black 1996 - 2002
The legend lives on.