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All Blacks World Cup demolition man Jonah Lomu's still a big hit

Published 25/08/2015

Jonah Lomu (right) is a big draw, despite never having won the Rugby World Cup
Jonah Lomu (right) is a big draw, despite never having won the Rugby World Cup

Jonah Lomu remains a big draw 20 years on from making a startling impact at the Rugby World Cup, a tournament he never won.

The New Zealander astounded with his pace, power and try-scoring at the 1995 tournament.

But the 40-year-old will not touch the Webb Ellis Cup which the All Blacks won in 1987 and 2011, as his star-studded generation fell short of victory.

Lomu, speaking at the Rugby World Cup trophy tour in Reading, told Press Association Sport: "I'm one of those superstitious boys. It doesn't matter what trophy it is, whether it's the World Cup or any other trophy that I haven't won, I won't touch it.

"It's not a regret in any way. You can't win them all. I've been blessed to be able to play in two World Cups. That's two more than most people."

Lomu made an indelible mark on the English sporting consciousness by trampling over Mike Catt, the Underwood brothers and any other English defender who had the temerity to attempt to tackle him in the 1995 semi-final.

Four of his World Cup record haul of 15 came in the contest in Cape Town, yet English rugby fans still flock to meet Lomu.

"They do tell me they can't forgive me for that, but they also enjoyed it," added Lomu, who featured in video games and pizza adverts following the tournament.

Every generation was present in Reading to see Lomu on Tuesday.

"It's a bit of a mix," he said.

"From toddlers all the way through to grandma and grandpa.

"There's been a couple of babies that have turned up in their English jump suits, that I've been signing.

"We had a few ladies who wanted their arms signed, because they're thinking about tattooing it on.

"It's truly humbling. The last World Cup I played in was 1999. And that's 16 years ago."

On that occasion it was France who upset the All Blacks in the semi-final at Twickenham.

Four years earlier hosts South Africa, in a stunning show of post-Apartheid unity, managed to tame Lomu in the final.

"'95 was the closest I got to the World Cup," Lomu added.

"We had one hand on it, the other hand couldn't quite get there.

"We went down in history in that tournament itself in terms of what it did. It was more than just a game.

"A way of showcasing South Africa and showing things had changed, especially with Nelson Mandela.

"In '99 we were beaten by a better French side on the day."

New Zealand finally won the tournament four years ago on home soil, but no team has won two Rugby World Cups in succession.

"It's one thing winning it, it's another thing defending it. No-one's ever done it," Lomu said.

"A World Cup is a funny thing. It doesn't matter how good you are prior to it, it could all change."

That is perhaps good news for Stuart Lancaster's England, who have had an inconsistent build-up and are seeking to emulate the 2003-winning team.

"They've got the home advantage so there is a strong prospect for it," Lomu added.

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