Rugby Remembering Lomu’s transcendent performance the last time New Zealand met Ireland

Rugby These constituents are elegant!

Oct 17, 2019

  • Huw Richards

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      • FT’s rugby writer from 1995 to 2009
      • Also writes for the International Herald Tribune and the Sunday Herald

Any of the players set to go to battle in Ireland’s second ever World Cup match against New Zealand in the quarterfinals on Saturday will do well to top the remarkable tournament debut of Jonah Lomu, the last time the pair met in this competition in 1995.

The world of rugby was very different back then — when Lomu and the All Blacks faced Ireland at Nelson Mandela’s World Cup in Johannesburg. The sport was still officially amateur, although that ideology was on its last legs, but New Zealand no longer arrived once a decade as complete unknowns.

The All Blacks were overwhelming favourites for the tournament, just as they are in Japan. But they had only played one match in the previous nine months in the traditional format of the game — a 73-7 demolition of Canada.

Lomu, a large chap playing as a scarcely credible 250lb, 6-foot-6 winger, had run amok at the Hong Kong Sevens earlier that year and was already in the record books as the youngest All Black at little over 19-years-old. But his first two caps, at home to France in 1994, had seen defensive limitations exposed by Emile N’Tamack.

The French won both Tests and Lomu, omitted from the subsequent three-match series with South Africa, the Bledisloe Cup against Australia and that single warm-up against the Canadians, was little known abroad except to sevens

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