Remembering the game that made Jonah Lomu

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By the end of 1994, Lomu had played two Tests for the All Blacks, toured Australia with the New Zealand Colts, appeared in two All Blacks trials and played nine games for Counties.


But those two Tests included two losses to France, games that exposed Lomu's lack of experience on the wing. It wasn't enough to ensure him a place in the World Cup squad.


Ahead of the 1995 season coach Laurie Mains demanded a much higher level of fitness to cope not only with the altitude the All Blacks would strike in South Africa but also play the style of game the side wanted to play. Lomu struggled with fitness demands.


It was a tough summer for him as selectors Mains, Earle Kirton and Peter Thorburn pondered if the big ball runner they wanted should be Lomu or his rival Norm Berryman.


He wasn't required to attend the first two of five training camps. But he was chosen for the third in Taupo where it was impressed on him he needed to improve his fitness. His fourth, in Christchurch, was affected by a cut he sustained and he wasn't required for the fifth camp in Greymouth.

But he was given dispensation to play for the All Blacks Sevens in two tournaments, in Fiji and the annual Hong Kong Sevens.


He was outstanding in the latter winning the player of the tournament and showing the benefits of the fitness work he had put in.


However, Lomu, feeling unwanted by the selectors, was still considering tempting offers to switch to rugby league. But it was fellow left-wing Eric Rush who convinced Lomu to play one more game with his mates, the North v South game in Dunedin.


As part of an exciting North Island team that claimed a substantial win, Lomu said later in his autobiography, "It's amazing what a difference one game can make."


It was in that game that New Zealanders finally began to appreciate the sort of impact Lomu would make when unleashed on the World Cup a few months later.


While playing on the right-wing, he put his immense power and speed to effect in scoring two tries in the 63-22 win. He then took advantage of an injury to Rush to secure his left-wing berth in two remaining trial games, a game against Waikato and for the Probables against the Possibles.


By the end of the process, Lomu had scored nine tries in four games, the end prize being a place in the World Cup squad and the rest, as they say, is history.


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