When Macca played Japan

Marc Ellis brushes past a Japanese defender in 1995. Photo by The New Zealand Herald.
Marc Ellis brushes past a Japanese defender in 1995. Photo by The New Zealand Herald.
When the All Blacks last played Japan at the World Cup, they won 145-17 and Otago utility back Marc Ellis scored six tries. Rugby writer Steve Hepburn catches up with Ellis to discuss that match and the World Cup in general.

Marc Ellis knew he was in a good space before he took on the Japanese at the 1995 World Cup.

Ellis, always a bit of a larrikin, was up to his normal misdeeds a day before the game.

"It does not feel that long ago. I remember pinching the team bus the day before. The team had finished training and I was out the back of the stadium doing donuts in it," he said.

"So that showed I was in pretty high spirits leading into the match."

Ellis scored three tries in each half, and Simon Culhane helped himself to 45 points, missing just one conversion as the All Blacks racked up a World Cup record.

The All Blacks led 84-3 at the break and amazingly conceded 20 penalties to just one.

Ellis pointed out Japan was fielding a homegrown side, not one bolstered by New Zealand imports.

"The thing was we were playing against Japan, which was a team full of Japanese. Things have certainly tightened up now.

"You're not going to get that same domination now. Those big results are not going to be as prevalent as they once were."

It was constant one-way traffic on a sunny Bloemfontein afternoon.

"Every time I did not pass it to the wings, I scored. I think I could have passed it to them on one occasion but didn't. Laurie [All Black coach Laurie Mains] didn't like that much.

"I remember I took the fullback on once and skinned him. At that stage of my career, when I was only 23-24, I did not think that he could stop me.

"From that position you generally back your own game. I don't know later in my career if I would have done the same thing."

Ellis was part of the squad which made it all the way to the final when it lost narrowly to South Africa, as the team went down with sickness caused by food poisoning.

"It was fantastic. And if we had not been jimmied just before the final, then what was expected of us, we could have done."

Ellis is involved with Sky Television for this year's World Cup and was excited by what he saw from the All Blacks this year.

"I've never seen an All Black team which is so full of talent. It is the equivalent of the 1987 side.

"For us to lose, the other team is going to have to play very well and have a very good day while we will have to have not a good day.

"But if we get to a final and it is two southern hemisphere teams, and that means a northern hemisphere ref who decides it is all about him, then who knows?"

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