When Lomu crushed Ireland and the world was mesmerised

The late, great winger continues to inspire a new generation of All Blacks as they seek to emulate his legendary performance against Ireland in a World Cup.

TOKYO, 19 Oct - It is nearly a quarter of a century since New Zealand last met Ireland in the World Cup but that 1995 contest at Ellis Park in Johannesburg will always hold a cherished place in rugby annals as the global launchpad for Jonah Lomu to parade his once-in-a-lifetime talent for the All Blacks.

The incredible 19-year-old, the youngest New Zealand test player of all, rampaged to two tries and created another that day, tearing the Irish defence to shreds and, in the process, almost reinventing the sport that had never seen his phenomenal like before.

It was the beginning of Lomu's transformative effect on the game, which continues to this day. Rugby's first truly global superstar died four years ago at just 40 of a heart attack associated with a serious kidney disorder, but his inspiration has continued to influence the new generation of All Black flyers.

Richie Mo'unga was just a year old when Lomu was working his wonders that day in New Zealand's 43-19 win but, like so many other young Kiwis, he was to grow up in thrall to the mighty winger who scored 15 tries in his two World Cups, a tally that has been matched only by South Africa's wide man Bryan Habana.

"My memories of the All Blacks started from Jonah Lomu," recalled All Blacks fly-half Mo'unga as he looked forward to piloting the side against Ireland in the quarter-final in Tokyo Stadium on Saturday.

"He inspired a lot of young Kiwis and I've no doubt he inspired a lot of the world, too, in terms of rugby. 

"That's how my love of the game grew. Jonah was able to do things that I thought people could never do. And the inspiration grew within me and grew my love for the game and my desire to be an All Black."

Mo'unga is not alone. Every new All Blacks wing sensation - and they seem to materialise with remarkable regularity - has had to emerge from Lomu's imposing shadow.

The latest are the Crusaders pair of 22-year-old Sevu Reece and 24-year-old George Bridge, who have both made a striking start to their All Blacks careers this season, and lit up the opening game here against South Africa.

Now, perhaps, it is already their time to rouse the next generation. "As All Blacks," explained Mo'unga, "it means a lot to us if we can inspire people and inspire young Kiwis."

The day Jonah Lomu changed the game

On 27 May 1995, there were plenty of rugby fans around the world who were not up with the hype surrounding the 1.96m, 113kg teenager who had played just two tests and, despite his power-packed ability, had been shown up defensively against France. Yet as soon as he received the ball against Ireland, it was carnage.

First, none of five Irish tacklers could stop him rampaging through to put Walter Little away for a score in the corner that was ruled out for a foot in touch.

Then he ran straight through and over Richard Wallace for his first try - in a similar fashion to the way he more famously trampled over England's Mike Catt during his four-try semi-final - before racing into the corner for another.

To seal his incredible display, he stormed almost the entire length of the field, handing off five green-shirted defenders before off-loading to Josh Kronfeld to score.

Legend has it that Gary Halpin ran past his fellow Irish prop Nick Popplewell to get into the right defensive position. Popplewell said, "Where you going, Gaz?" To which came the answer, "'I have to go tackle him." "Ah, be careful," warned Popplewell. "If you get there too early you really might have to actually tackle him."

RNS ic/mr