RWC7s memories: 2001 and Jonah Lomu
irbsevens.com and James Mortimer 18 Jun 2013 Getty Images
New Zealand – already by now the reigning and inaugural World Series champions - were coasting, conceding only two tries in their pool rounds but in the last one, against England, they lost captain Rush to a broken leg. It seemed his return to Auckland provided that extra motivation for the kiwis as other big nations suffered. Spain beat England, Portugal drew with Wales, Argentina beat Ireland and the Cook Islands beat France. Meanwhile, reigning World champions Fiji were knocked off their pedestal by Australia.
But New Zealand remained focused with Tietjens in charge, Tenana the replacement captain and Mils Muliaina, Brad Fleming, Rodney So'oialo Craig Newby and Lomu on hand. Underplayed in the early rounds, it was as though Jonah had been kept in reserve for the crunch matches and, in particular, the final against Australia. He took matters into his own hands from the first whistle to score with his first touch of the ball after just one minute, an unstoppable man mountain over 70 yards. Two more tries - he was simply an irresistible force - and the match was done, 31-12, New Zealand finally claiming the prize.
2001: Karl Tenana on 'Lomu's Cup'
"The 2001 World Cup was a special time. We'd been there previously with the World Series and to be able to go back to familiar, if hostile, territory was something pretty special.
"We didn't have it all our own way, it was a rough ride and Argentina were really tough opponents in the semi-final, especially with the local crowd. They were baying for blood and that's what galvanised us. We knew that 40,000 Argentines wanted us to lose and that inspired us and luckily we played well enough to make the final.
"We knew that if we could get to the big show then that's where Jonah (Lomu) would shine. Unfortunately we'd lost our captain Eric Rush earlier in the tournament to a broken leg and Rushie had been sharing a room with Jonah, so we knew that on day three he would be a man possessed.
"All we had to do was get him the ball and that's what we did in the final. He ran amuck. He was unstoppable and thank goodness he was on my team.
"On that last day there I'd say that's the purest Sevens I've ever been involved with. Everyone was where they were supposed to be when they were supposed to be there. Nobody had to say anything, we'd hear one word in the back of our ear and we'd know our mate was there. I'll never forget it.
"It's only a small Cup but it means a lot, it's got a lot of history inside it, and to be able to bring it home to New Zealand was something special."
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