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Jonah Lomu hugely popular at recent Rugby World Cup trophy tour

Ever since bursting on to the scene in the 1995 Rugby World Cup Jonah Lomu remained a big draw for fans.

The New Zealander astounded with his pace, power and try-scoring at the tournament in South Africa and 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 semi-final.

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

This was highlighted when he was present at the Rugby World Cup trophy tour that preceded the tournament.

''They do tell me they can't forgive me for that, but they also enjoyed it,'' Lomu told Press Association Sport when the tour reached Reading in August.

''It's a bit of a mix. 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.''


From Belfast Telegraph