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Jonah Lomu: the World Cup that created a legend

November 18, 2015 5:25 pm

One of the great joys of covering rugby around the globe was the sight of Jonah Lomu charging through the 1995 World Cup.

The high veld and coastal landscapes of South Africa were the venues for the emergence of this rugby superstar whose exploits persuaded media baron Rupert Murdoch that he must galvanise the sport into a fully professional code.

Get me that man, Murdoch told his henchmen, no excuses, no maybes. Sign Jonah and we have the jewel we need to lead this rugby revolution.

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A year before, on test debut as the youngest in All Black history, Lomu was uncertain in two tests against France, but that was gone in Johannesburg through Bloemfontein to Pretoria then Cape Town.

His transformation was remarkable. The gauche teenager was replaced by a thundering keg of explosive venom on the All Blacks left wing.

In a rugby land which lauded size and power, Lomu came with super-sized quantities of both, topped with deft ball-handling skills, superb balance and a sense of timing which astounded his opponents and those of us fortunate to cover that extraordinary tournament.

When All Black coach Laurie Mains picked Lomu in 1994, the shy wing never quite got to grips with his job description.

But after a punishing fitness schedule and massive encouragement from people like Eric Rush to stick with rugby and fend away offers from rival codes, Lomu was picked for the World Cup.

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