RWC moments: Culhane scores a world record 45 points
New Zealand beat Japan by 128 points in 1995 Rugby World Cup with the outhalf starring
Marc Ellis escapes Tsutomu Matsuda during the pool stage game between Japan and New Zealand at the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Photograph: Phil Cole/Getty
In the 1995 tournament, New Zealand thrashed Japan 145-17 at the Free State stadium in Bloemfontein scoring 21 tries in the process. They led 28-0 after 11 minutes, 84-3 at half-time and when the dust has settled, 27-year-old debutant outhalf Simon Culhane had chipped in with a world record 45 points, scoring a try and 20 conversions.
Culhane had the misfortune to play in an era that included some great All Black outhalves, including Andrew Mehrtens, Carlos Spencer and Tony Brown, but despite his diminutive stature he was physically strong from his days as a builder and an accomplished pivot to boot. He understudied Mehrtens for two seasons in the All Blacks jersey, starting with the 1995 World Cup. Culhane said of his debut against Japan: “We were basically the ‘B’ team and it was unheard of to rotate in those days.
“We were pretty determined we weren’t going to let the All Blacks jersey down. Momentum (for the quarter-final) was important.” He converted 20 of the 21 tries – wing Marc Ellis helped himself to half a dozen – and there was a suspicion in the latter stages that New Zealand mightn’t have been dotting down as close to the posts as possible. It was a phenomenal display of place-kicking.
He continued: “I wouldn’t have been able to do that at training. The rhythm felt really nice. The majority were from out wide. I had to work reasonably hard to get them over. A little bit of fuss was made after the game that I had actually achieved a world record. I’ve never been one for records or milestones. I just took it in my stride.
“It’s one I’ll never forget. I was lucky enough to play in a World Cup; I was a pretty glassy-eyed Southlander. I had to take my opportunities when they came up and I’m pleased I did in hindsight. I was immensely nervous. I was lucky enough to overcome it on the day.”
New Zealand lost the final to South Africa but later that year undertook a tour to Italy and France and when Mehrtens was injured in the opening match, Culhane came in to play against Italy and a further two tests against France, scoring 52 points in total.
Mehrtens was again injured the following year in South Africa and it gave Culhane an opportunity to win his final two caps for the All Blacks, adding 17 points in two tests against the Springboks. In six caps he scored 114 points at an average of 19 per game. He went on to be assistant coach with the Hurricanes under Jamie Joseph and also with Southland.