The greatest wingers of all time: Jonah Lomu
The late Jonah Lomu was a bona fide global superstar. The New Zealand winger's name can be linked with the term ‘shock and awe’. The effect he had on the 1995 Rugby World Cup alone, qualifies him as one of the greatest of all time
Major teams: Counties Manukau, Wellington, Aukland
Country: New Zealand
Test span: 1994-2002
Test caps: 63 (54 starts)
Test points: 185 (37T)
Growing up in South Auckland, he started out playing rugby league but at 14 switched to union with Wesley College. A superb schoolboy athlete, he was clocked at 10.8s over 100m. This speed, allied to his 6ft 5in, 19st frame, meant his impact on the game was profound, with jumbo-sized imitators George North, Alesana Tuilagi and Julian Savea all boasting elements of his game.
In 1995, Lomu, who made his New Zealand debut at the Hong Kong Sevens the previous year, scored three tries against Ireland and Scotland, but it was when he faced Will Carling’s England that his star went stratospheric, leading to a chain of events that set rugby on a path to professionalism, with TV channels prepared to pay serious money for athletes of Lomu’s calibre.
He scored four tries against England but it was the first, when he swatted Tony Underwood away and trampled over Mike Catt, that left fans and opposition players dumbstruck. Though he was shackled in the final, Lomu’s celebrity soon saw a Sony PlayStation game named after him.
At RWC 1999, Lomu lived up to his reputation, scoring eight tries. One image that encapsulated his power came against France in the semi-final when full-back Xavier Garbajosa simply skipped out of the way as Lomu careered towards him on his way to the line.
“He was like a tower block running at you,” Jason Robinson once said.
Lomu was to play his final Test in 2002, at just 27, when a debilitating kidney complaint started affecting his ability to perform at the highest level. He took his leave with 37 tries – fifth in the All Blacks; all-time list. Regardless of his passing, Lomu remains unsurpassed as a rugby icon.