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Craig Joiner: Jonah Lomu changed rugby forever

Published 18/11/2015

Retired Scotland wing Craig Joiner, pictured reckons Jonah Lomu changed rugby forever
Retired Scotland wing Craig Joiner, pictured reckons Jonah Lomu changed rugby forever

Former Scotland wing Craig Joiner had never seen anyone like Jonah Lomu before facing him at the 1995 World Cup.

But he believes the late New Zealand star's impact at that tournament changed rugby forever and opened the door for a generation of juggernaut widemen to take the game by storm.

Joiner was Lomu's direct opponent in Pretoria when the Scots faced the All Blacks in the 1995 quarter-final.

He may only have scored once in his side's 48-30 win as they set up a semi-final clash with England but the rapid foot movement and raw power of the 18 stone and 6ft 5ins Kiwi left former Edinburgh back Joiner stunned.

Paying tribute to the 63-times capped All Black - who died suddenly aged just 40 on Wednesday morning - Joiner told Press Association Sport: "Everywhere he appeared on the pitch Jonah was a menace because people were just not used to playing against someone of that size.

"If he wanted to hand-off or run over a second-row forward, he had the power to do it. He was devastating on the wing and there was not a lot teams could do to stop him when he was on form.

"He broke the mould. Not only was he so powerful, but he was light on his feet with an ability to change direction quickly and that's what caught people off guard. For a big man it was unbelievable just how fast he was.

"You have to say that he changed rugby. If you rolled on two or three years from 1995, wingers like him were common place, when before they really weren't.

"All of a sudden wingers were coming inside to run crash balls because he had shown how it could be done.

"It really is very sad what has happened to him at such a young age."

Jonah Lomu has died at the age of 40.
Jonah Lomu has died at the age of 40.
Lomu's made a huge impact at the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
In 1995, Jonah Lomu became rugby's first global superstar when he took the Rugby World Cup by storm. Lomu scored seven tries in the tournament but it was his performance against England in the semi-final which really caught the eye. The twenty-year-old winger, who weighed just under twenty stone and towered over his opposition at 6'5", famously trampled over Mike Catt on his way to scoring four tries and dumping England out of the tournament in a 45-29 victory for the All Blacks. After the game, England captain Will Carling famously described Lomu as 'a freak'. The Kiwi's further eight tries in the 1999 tournament make Lomu the all-time Rugby World Cup top try-scorer with fifteen tries.
Jonah Lomu (right) is a big draw, despite never having won the Rugby World Cup
Born in Auckland to Tongan parents in 1975, Jonah Tali Lomu spent the early part of his childhood in Tonga.
He moved out to the left wing by the time he won the first of his 63 Test caps as the youngest ever All Black - against France at the age of 19 years and 45 days - and it was as a move none would argue with.
One of the All Blacks greatest players was also one of the sports most intimidating. Standing at 6ft 5in, Lomu would dwarf his opponents and the ones that dared tackle him would be swatted away like flies. That he has since moved into the world of body building and can now be seen in skimpy underwear striking silly poses has somewhat tarnished his fearful reputation.
Superstar: Jonah Lomu in action for the All Blacks
In front of a world record crowd of 109,874 in Sydney, Jonah Lomu scored a last minute try for the All Blacks, giving them an incredible victory against Australia.
His imposing frame meant he was soon making an impression on the rugby pitch. However, when he represented New Zealand schoolboys, it was as a number eight.
Jonah Lomu limbers up with the New Zealand squad in Auckland today" data-title=" Jonah Lomu limbers up with the New Zealand squad in Auckland today" >
Jonah Lomu limbers up with the New Zealand squad in Auckland today
Despite his World Cup heroics, Lomu never won a World Cup.
Lomu looks on during the IRB 2011 Rugby World Cup Opening Ceremony at Eden Park on September 9, 2011 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
His international career ended in 2002 and t he following year he spent the first of many hours receiving kidney dialysis treatment. The year after that Lomu revealed he needed a transplant. He had it - but his body rejected it in 2011 and the dialysis continued.
Lomu was in the United Kingdom for the recent World Cup, where he tweeted passionately about the sport he still loved. The success of "the brothers in black" was relished publicly by someone who had lived the moment himself. He is survived by wife Nadene and their young sons Brayley and Dhyreille.
Rugby World Cup 1995 New Zealand vs Ireland Jonah Lomu ©INPHO/Billy Stickland
Jonah Lomu is tackled by Gary Longwell of Ireland Mandatory Credit©INPHO/Billy Stickland
Ireland v Barbarians. All Black Jonah Lomu playing for the Barbarians breaks through the Irish defence during the friendly at Lansdowne Road, Dublin Sunday May 28 2000. PA Photo: Chris Bacon...S
Jonah Lomu scores a try against Ireland during the second half of their international rugby union game at Lansdowne Road, Dublin, November 17, 2001. REUTERS/Paul McErlane...S
New Zealand Rugby star, Jonah Lomu at the launch of Ballygowan's new Sports Pack in Dublin's Shelbourne Hotel. Picturen By David Conachy. 16/01/2003.
All Black star Jonah Lomu is tackled by four year old Dan Sheehan at the launch of the new Ballygowan sports Pack at Stephens Green in Dublin. 16/01/2003
Jonah Lomu of New Zealand sings the national anthem before the start of the England v NZ International, Twickenham, London 09/11/2002.
New Zealand Rugby star, Jonah Lomu at the launch of Ballygowan's new Sports Pack in Dublin's Shelbourne Hotel. Picturen By David Conachy. 16/01/2003.
Jonah Lomu and Denis Hickie in the International Friendly Ireland vs New Zealand All Blacks 17/11/2001. ©INPHO/Patrick Bolger
Cardiff Blues and former All Black Jonah Lomu arrives for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, Sunday December 11, 2005.
Rugby Legend Jonah Lomu turns on the Christmas Lights in Limerick.

Lomu was still a relatively unknown proposition on the world stage as the 1995 tournament got under way.

But he soon established himself as rugby's first global superstar, with his sensational four-try display over the English a week after helping to end Scotland's campaign the undoubted highlight of his stellar career.

And Joiner admits he learned the hard way just how lethal Lomu could be on the wing as he watched the giant New Zealander run away from him time and again during that last-eight clash in South Africa.

He said: "I'd heard a little bit about him before the tournament but like all these things, you wonder if the hype is backed up by the reality - and it was.

"A star was born at that World Cup. I watched the pool matches when he barged his way through Wales and Ireland, scoring tries with ease.

"But leading up to our game with the All Blacks I wasn't too worried. I was always quick and there weren't many wingers who were quicker than me. I thought I could take him down so my objective was just to show him the outside, which he duly took twice. He scored once in our game but also came up with a couple of impressive offloads.

"I wasn't scared of him - you shouldn't be playing rugby if you're scared of getting hurt - but he wasn't somebody I particularly wanted to tackle head on because the end result probably would have been worse."

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