Former England winger saw up close Lomu's devastating impact in unforgettable 1995 RWC semi-final
When Jonah Lomu charged at you at full pelt, there often wasn’t much you could do to stop him – as England found out to our cost in that memorable semi-final in the 1995 World Cup.
Lomu was the fiercest of opponents. His speed, once he got going, his sheer size and the length of his stride meant that he was a difficult man to bring down.
A player who in that match swatted my brother Tony off “like a fly”, as one commentator put it, before storming through attempted tackles by Will Carling and Mike Catt was always going to be remembered by those who love rugby for a long time after the final whistle blew.
Yet Lomu, who has died so tragically young at the age of 40, leaving behind a wife and two young sons, was not just a big guy who ran fast. He was both of those things on the pitch, yes, but he was also supremely skillful. It was this combination – his power and his technical mastery – that made him stand out in the sport.
At the time, I didn’t really take it on board: there were 14 other All Blacks on the pitch that day. Amid all the running and tackling, he just seemed to keep reaching the try line – again and again.
Overall it wasn’t even as if England played that badly – Will Carling and I scored two tries apiece in the second half – but the truth is we had been thumped in the first 20 minutes. Lomu matched us both with four tries of his own.
Looking back on that match, particularly watching replays of his tries, and seeing him steamroller over a few players who got in his way, you could argue that he was ahead of his time by five or 10 years.
Here was a great professional athlete playing right at the end of rugby’s amateur era. His opponents simply weren’t ready for that level of athletic ability.
There was also the crucial matter of timing. The 1995 World Cup was such a key moment for rugby. It was the first World Cup to involve the Springboks and the fact that South Africa hosted it, with Nelson Mandela’s full and public support, ensured that the eyes of the world were on the tournament.
It was at this moment that Jonah Lomu ran on to the stage with a performance that for me had the biggest impact of any player on any Rugby World Cup. It was a performance that helped to usher in the professional era. What a tragedy it was that his career would be cut short by his medical problems.
Lomu was unstoppable on that memorable day in South Africa
Importantly, away from the pitch Jonah was among the kindest and most respectful people you could hope to meet. I had the utmost admiration for him, and we shared the mutual respect of former opponents. In 2007 I flew to New Zealand to appear in an episode of This is Your Life that paid tribute to him.
I was proud to be a part of that small tribute to a fine human being – and am proud now, when I look back on it, to have played against one of the All Blacks’ greats. - Rory Underwood (Telegraph UK).
Thank you Rory for the tribute interview you did for our Jonah with the Telegraph.
Recently New Zealand lost one if its great totara trees, Jonah Lomu. A global superstar, a rugby pioneer and legend who brought joy and excitement not only to those who watched him, but all the lives he touched with his generosity.
As the family went into mourning the country and the rest of the world took time to remember a great New Zealander who helped pioneer the game into what it is today.
Jonah was a private person, who was so generous to others that he did not always think of the consequences to himself or his family and in the past week we saw some of that in the media.
There are two young boys that have been left without their Daddy (a term Brayley and Dhyreille used to refer to their father). Jonah was hoping to see them grow up and to guide them, along life’s path. The reality is that they no longer have that, however, they have not been left without a mother, and she is still here, and will continue to support them financially and emotionally. She is lucky enough to have two loving parents Merv and Lois to support her and their grandchildren as well as Jonah’s family. They are also blessed to have the best interests and support from so many New Zealanders which they are extremely grateful for. Nadene is not ready to speak publically yet while they are still coming to terms with the great loss of Jonah and life without him at their side. When she is ready she will make a further statement, but for now, would like to express her sincere appreciation to all of New Zealand, as well as Jonah’s vast group of supporters abroad, for the love and support that they have expressed to the family over the past number of weeks since Jonah’s death.
Nadene says “Thank you to New Zealand and the world for the support and love you have shown both my sons Brayley and Dhyreille on the passing of their Daddy. While this is a hard time for us, I am grateful for the support from all of you that have over the last week spared a thought for our family. On behalf of not just me, but Brayley and Dhyreille, I would like to thank those in the media that have given us space and time as a family to grieve. To the vans and cameras that have sat outside our family home last week and specifically the stories that have been written about us, I would ask for you to respect our privacy through the holiday period as Brayley and Dhyreille get ready to head into Christmas for the first time without their Daddy. This is a very difficult time for us, and we appreciate your support and love as well as consideration to let us all adjust to this new chapter in our lives.” “I would also like to thank the New Zealand Rugby Players Union, who independently and of their own initiative established a Trust to benefit our sons. This was done independent of my involvement and I am grateful that the boys will have that support growing up without their Daddy in their lives. The trust is there for the boys and I have every confidence the Trustees, who will administer the Trust, will do so in the best interest of our sons.”
”On behalf of our sons I am very grateful that people who have been touched through Jonah’s life have wanted to give so generously to the trust that has been established for Brayley and Dhyreille. I will continue to work hard, as every other good mother in this country does, to provide them with the best upbringing possible.”
“Once again thank you so much for your love and support, have a safe and happy Christmas with your family these holidays and enjoy every moment you can with your loved ones, you never know how long you have them with you.”
The family will answer more questions in the New Year, but for now want to focus their time with Brayley and Dhyreille to help them through the Festive season without their hero and Daddy, Jonah. - Jevan Goulter
Jonah Lomu has taken part in the haka, in Covent Garden, London, ahead of the Rugby World Cup.
“It’s always an honour to perform the haka, whether you’re representing your nation in front of 80,000 people or performing for a group of unsuspecting rugby fans,” Lomu said.
It's even been a really special moment for me having my wife, Nadene and my two boys Brayley and Dhyreille present to watch me perform the haka in London's iconic Covent Garden.
"I didn't think I would perform the haka again," Lomu said. "My two sons have never seen me do the haka before and this has brought it to life for me. It is something special for them as previously they have only seen videos."
Lomu, as a Mastercard ambassador for the tournament, had a stormy relationship with his own father, but after words from Nadene and her example of forgiveness and love, she clearly mended torn hearts after 17 years apart. Lomu's father died two years ago but the rift was non existent and Lomu's son's Brayley and Dhyreille as well as Lomu and his wife, all had memories to cherish. Lomu has said he's determined to make the most of his own sons.
My two sons have never seen me do the haka before and this has brought it to life for me. It is something special for them. "I do want to see them grow into grown men and I pray my health condition will allow me to do so, through the will of the man above," said Lomu.
"Whether they play rugby or not doesn't matter. I just want them to be healthy and to grow. One thing as a dad you don't want is for them to come to any harm or anything bad to happen to them.
"The illnesses and pain I'm going through, I don't want them to experience that, no dad wants that.
"This [the World Cup trip] is a great experience for them. This is where rugby started, so what a way to take two kids on a journey.
"I'm their dad and I'm trying to set an example and my beautiful wife ensures I do everything I need to do."
Indeed Lomu, who sports tattoos of his two boys names on his right arm and that of his wife on his left one, said Nadene - who Lomu revealed is responsible for Dhyreille's name, coming up with it at 1:00am while pregnant and eating pizza - is an immeasurable support to him.
"Rugby has prepared me for the challenges of life, but the most important thing is that your pillars are rock solid and the family keeps you in great stead," said Lomu.
"I am thankful that I have a beautiful wife and the kids are here. Nadene makes sure that my family stays together.
"She is my manager, my wife, my best friend and my boss!"
Lomu, scorer of 37 tries in 63 test appearances, still has enormous pull as was clear from the number of people, young and old, who sidled up and asked to have photos taken with him which he agreed to - three policemen waited for 20 minutes to have their photo taken with him.
"Its quite humbling for people to recognise me, given it is now 20 years ago since I first played in the World Cup.
"Made all the more humbling when kids come up to me and say 'I never saw you play live, but I watch you on YouTube' and other children saying they want to play like me."