Christian Cullen

Last updated

Christian Cullen
Christian Cullen.jpg
Cullen in 2010
Birth nameChristian Mathias Cullen
Date of birth (1976-02-12) 12 February 1976 (age 43)
Place of birth Paraparaumu, New Zealand
Height1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)
Weight85 kg (13 st 5 lb; 187 lb)
School Kapiti College
Notable relative(s) Brian Steele (great-uncle)
Rugby union career
Position(s) Fullback, Wing, Centre
All Black No. 952
Senior career
Central Vikings
National team(s)
New Zealand U21
New Zealand
New Zealand Barbarians
Barbarian F.C.
National sevens team(s)
1995–1996 New Zealand 5

Christian Mathias Cullen (born 12 February 1976) is a New Zealand former rugby union player. He played most of his rugby at fullback for New Zealand (the All Blacks), for the Hurricanes in the Super 12, and for Manawatu, Wellington and later Munster at provincial level. He was nicknamed the Paekakariki Express and was considered to be one of the most potent running fullbacks rugby has ever seen.[ citation needed ] With 46 tries scored in 58 tests, Cullen is the 9th-highest try-scorer in international rugby.[ citation needed ]

Rugby union Team sport, code of rugby football

Rugby union, commonly known in most of the world simply as rugby, is a contact team sport which originated in England in the first half of the 19th century. One of the two codes of rugby football, it is based on running with the ball in hand. In its most common form, a game is between two teams of 15 players using an oval-shaped ball on a rectangular field with H-shaped goalposts at each end.

New Zealand national rugby union team mens rugby union team of New Zealand

The New Zealand national rugby union team, called the All Blacks, represents New Zealand in men's rugby union, which is known as the country's national sport. The team has won the last two Rugby World Cups, in 2011 and 2015 as well as the inaugural tournament in 1987.

Manawatu Rugby Union sports club

Manawatu Rugby Football Union (MRU) is the governing body of the sport of rugby union in the Manawatu province.


Youth and early career

Cullen was born in Paraparaumu and grew up in Paekakariki, a small town north of Wellington. He is the youngest of three children. He has an elder twin brother named Shane and a sister named Anita. Cullen is of Irish descent; he also has Samoan and German ancestry.

Paraparaumu human settlement

Paraparaumu is a town in the south-western North Island of New Zealand. It lies on the Kapiti Coast, 55 kilometres (34 mi) north of the nation's capital city, Wellington.

Paekakariki Place in Wellington, New Zealand

Paekakariki, prior to 1905 also known as Paikakariki, is a town in the Kapiti Coast District in the south-western North Island of New Zealand. It is 22 km (14 mi) north of Porirua and 45 km (28 mi) northeast of Wellington, the nation's capital city. The town's name in Māori means "kākāriki (parakeet) perch".

His rugby talent emerged in his high school years and he was selected in the New Zealand secondary schools team in 1993 and 1994. He played senior rugby for Manawatu in 1995 and scored 70 points through 12 tries, two conversions and two penalty goals. He was selected to the New Zealand sevens squad for tournaments in Fiji and Hong Kong.

Professional career

Cullen's provincial career started in 1996 season. He played in the first-ever Super 12 game, contested by the Hurricanes and the Blues. That year he scored seven tries in nine matches.

At the 1996 World Sevens competition in Hong Kong he scored 18 tries, including seven in one match. [1] Later that year he was selected as an All Black. He scored seven tries in his first two Test matches: a hat-trick on debut against Samoa and four tries against Scotland. He sustained a knee cartilage injury on the All Blacks' tour to South Africa. [2]

In 1997 Cullen returned from injury and scored 11 tries in 10 games for the Hurricanes, and 12 tries in 12 Test matches for the All Blacks.

The All Blacks had a poor year in 1998 with five consecutive losses, but Cullen scored four tries in seven matches. He represented New Zealand in rugby sevens at the Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games, playing seven games, scoring nine tries and kicking 23 conversions. New Zealand won the tournament and the gold medal.

In 1999 Cullen was a member of New Zealand's unsuccessful Rugby World Cup squad. He played six matches in the Cup tournament, starting five at centre which was not his preferred position. [3] In 2000 he scored 10 tries in 11 games for the Hurricanes and seven tries in four Tri Nations Tests, including three consecutive pairs.

In 2001 Cullen sustained a severe knee injury that required surgery and an intensive recovery programme. He made himself unavailable for the All Blacks' 2001 end-of-year tour, but was announced ‘dropped’ by coach John Mitchell at a NZRU press conference. [2] Cullen and Mitchell's personal differences went unresolved over time. Cullen was selected to and dropped from the All Blacks squad throughout 2002. He scored four tries in the five Test matches that year.

In the 2003 Super season Cullen scored eight tries in 12 games for the Hurricanes, taking his Super Rugby career tally to 56, a record at the time. [4] He was briefly and controversially selected for the Māori rugby team, despite having, according to his father, about 1/64th Māori ancestry. [5] He was left out of New Zealand's 2003 World Cup squad. He played out the NPC season for Wellington and received a standing ovation after the Championship final, despite Wellington's losing to Auckland.

Super Rugby rugby union competition

Super Rugby is a professional men's rugby union competition involving teams from Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Japan. Building on various Southern Hemisphere competitions dating back to the South Pacific Championship in 1986, with teams from a number of southern nations, Super Rugby started as the Super 12 in the 1996 season with 12 teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The Super 12 was established by SANZAR after the sport became professional in 1995.

Later career and retirement

At the end of 2003 Cullen moved to Ireland, after he was dropped by John Mitchell, where he played for Munster. His time with Munster was blighted by injuries, particularly to his shoulder, limiting his appearances. His last match for Munster was a 15–7 Celtic League win over the Newport Gwent Dragons at Musgrave Park on 28 April 2007. Two weeks later, on 12 May, he announced his retirement from rugby and stated his intention of returning to New Zealand to start a business. [6]


Cullen is the All Blacks' second-highest try-scorer in the Tri Nations Series with 16,[ citation needed ] second only to Richie McCaw. He was the first player to score a try in every Tri Nations test in one season.[ citation needed ] He is New Zealand's second most-capped test fullback.[ citation needed ] At the time of his retirement he was the All Blacks' leading try-scorer with 46;[ citation needed ] that record has since been overtaken by Doug Howlett. He scored over 150 tries while playing in New Zealand. He is the third-highest try-scorer in Super Rugby with 56 tries,[ citation needed ] behind Joe Roff and Howlett.


His biography, Christian Cullen: Life on the Run (by John Matheson) was released in October 2003. The book received attention particularly for Cullen's criticism of John Mitchell.

See also

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  1. Becht, R. (1997). Christian Cullen ‘Awesome’. Auckland, New Zealand: Hodder Moa Beckett Publishers Ltd. p. 14.
  2. 1 2 Matheson, J. (2003). Christian Cullen – ‘Life on the run.’. Auckland, New Zealand: Hodder Moa Beckett Publishers Ltd. pp. 66, 127, 133, 147, 192.
  3. "There are a few things in my career I would loved to have done. The [1999] World Cup, playing at centre wasn't my favourite position. I would have loved to go in and play fullback," Cullen said.
  4. "All Time Super Rugby Records". Sports Digital 20 February 2008. Archived from the original on 7 April 2009. Retrieved 5 April 2009.
  5. "Uncovering the Maori mystery". BBC Sport. 5 June 2003.
  6. "Cullen decides to end his career". BBC Sport. 12 May 2007.