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Echoes from Newlands ’95 as England, New Zealand set for Rugby World Cup semifinal


More than 24 years have passed since England last played New Zealand in a World Cup semi-final, but those on the pitch at Newlands on June 18, 1995 still have vivid memories of one man: Jonah Lomu.

It was a game where a 20-year-old from the rough suburbs of Auckland changed an entire sport. Lomu exploded on to the scene with four tries, destroying every Englishman who got in his way with a masterclass of pace and power.

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s showdown in Japan, England centre Manu Tuilagi said he grew up wanting to play like Lomu. Despite growing up in Samoa surrounded by five rugby-playing brothers, Tuilagi just wanted to be like the monstrous wing of Tongan heritage.


‘He [Lomu] is a legend of the game. Growing up with my brothers, it wasn’t hard to look for heroes and inspiration, but definitely I wanted to play like Jonah.’

Sportsmail tracked down some of Lomu’s team-mates- Zinzan Brooke and Frank Bunce – and victim – Dewi Morris – to relive the historic occasion.

Zinzan Brooke: Before the World Cup we had a probables versus possibles trial match and our coach, Laurie Mains, gave the loose forwards strict instructions to test this guy out. Not physically beat him up, but try to intimidate him and see how he responded. The coaches wanted to work him out.

Eight minutes into this match, I lined him up off the back of a lineout. I was in the perfect body position to tackle him but – ‘bang!’ – he swatted me like a fly. He was a special young man. One on one, you would back him 10 times out of 10.

Frank Bunce: In the days leading up to that match we wound up Jonah. He was marking Tony Underwood, who was in the press a bit leading up to it, so we needled Jonah with the press clippings to wind him right up! Underwood was saying that Jonah – because he was only 20 – had never really been tested, and was putting pressure on him.

Underwood was 5ft 9in and about 12st. We spent the whole week winding up Jonah about it, good-naturedly, and by the end of it he had steam coming out of his ears.

Dewi Morris: We had done all our homework. We were going to try to keep the ball tight. If Jonah got the ball, take him around his legs. What we realised is that if you went for his legs then he would just smash you to the ground with his piston arms. It didn’t matter if you went low, medium or high that day.

Nowadays, modern rugby players are big and strong. They know how to deal with it. These were amateur days and, back in 1995, he was a force of nature.

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