RWC #3: Jonah Lomu destroys England in 1995

A star is born as All Blacks winger single-handedly decides Newlands semi-final

Jonah Lomu destroyed England in the 1995 Rugby World Cup semi-final in Cape Town. Photograph: Getty

Jonah Lomu destroyed England in the 1995 Rugby World Cup semi-final in Cape Town. Photograph: Getty

 

The All Blacks progression to the 1994 World Cup semi-finals was as assured as it was fearsome.

They cantered through a group containing Ireland and Wales before outscoring a game Scotland side in the quarter-finals in Pretoria.

One player in particular had been making waves for the All Blacks on their journey to the last four.

Jonah Tali Lomu was a 20-year-old man mountain who had only picked up two international caps before the tournament.

Before the World Cup it had looked unlikely he was going to make it into Laurie Mains’ squad having left much to be desired during physical and skill tests during the All Blacks summer camp.

It was, in the end, Lomu’s scintillating performances in the Hong Kong Sevens which won him his place at a tournament he would come to define.

He scored against Ireland in the group stages and then Scotland in the quarter-finals and people started to take notice, but it was against England in the semi-finals where he rumbled and roared into the world’s consciousness.

England actually fancied their chances against New Zealand in Cape Town, but then they came across Lomu.

At Newlands Lomu produced a one-man demolition job so severe and so devastating many of the England side probably still carry the psychological scars today.

It started in just the second minute. Graeme Bachop played a long pass to the left wing which actually went beyond Lomu. The winger checked, picking up the ball between the England 10-metre and 22, stepping off his left foot and fending off Rory Underwood with a big hand.

He then powered down the touchline past the despairing dive of Will Carling to leave him one-on-one with Mike Catt. Catt lined Lomu, who was stumbling, up, but was powerless as the big man ran over him and over the line.

In that moment, England were beaten. Lomu went on to run in another three tries in the All Blacks 45-29 win, each one a display of a combination of power and pace rugby had never seen before.

Lomu had just become rugby’s first global superhero. A star had been born.

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