One-Off Jonah Lomu Broke Barriers and Tackles
It is exactly 25 years since Jonah Lomu flattened Mike Catt to score at the Rugby World Cup, where the All Black transformed into a superstar, Paul Rees writes for The Guardian.
“When Lomu arrived in South Africa 25 years ago for the World Cup, he was such a peripheral figure in the New Zealand squad that interview requests with him were rare and invariably granted,” Rees writes. “The then rugby correspondent of the Irish Times, Edmund van Esbeck, had an audience with the 19-year old wing who had the build of a second row before the opening weekend group match between Ireland and the All Blacks in Johannesburg, curious whether Lomu who earlier that year was named the player of the Hong Kong Sevens had more than a bit-part role to play.
“Four weeks later, the day after the World Cup final between South Africa and New Zealand, which was won by a Joel Stransky drop goal in extra-time, Lomu was lounging in a large hotel chair that was not quite generous enough to hide his ample frame from the hordes of fans who came looking for one autograph above every other in that pre-selfie, less security conscious time. He was, in the words of Raymond Chandler, as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel cake.
“‘He was somebody who took rugby to another level,’ Lomu’s manager Phil Kingsley Jones wrote in his autobiography, How Did I Manage That?. Before New Zealand played Ireland in the 1995 World Cup, Lomu had to show he was up to Test level. Van Esbeck had to conjure up 1000 words, unaware his subject was about to make as big an impact on the game as he did on defenders.”
Original article by Paul Rees, The Guardian, June 18, 2020.