Wednesday 18 September 2019

‘We didn't expect him to wreak so much havoc’- Dewi Morris pays tribute to Jonah Lomu

Jonah Lomu in 1995. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Jonah Lomu in 1995. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Tom Rooney

Dewi Morris witnessed Lomu’s staggering power first hand when the Kiwi winger ran in four tries against England in 1995 World Cup semi-final.

In his latest column for Sky Sports, the 1993 Lions scrum-half vividly recalls the then 20-year-old Lomu, who died from kidney failure yesterday, bulldozing his way through England defenders with incredible ease as he announced himself to the world on that sunny afternoon in Cape Town.

“The first and only time I played against him was in that semi-final,” Morris said. “I don't remember many games and many scores but it was June 18, 1995 in the semi-final of the Rugby World Cup and we lost 45-29.”

England had watched the 6’5 wing wreak havoc in the tournament to that point, and Morris claimed that their tentative blueprint for neutralising Lomu was to put him in one-on-one situations with the evasive Tony Underwood.

However, it quickly became apparent that the ploy was misplaced.

“We had beaten Australia and we had the All Blacks next. Unfortunately within 20 minutes the dream of going to a World Cup final was over for us.

“I remember that we had a game plan to give Rory Underwood the ball early with a bit of space and he would go round Jonah - I think within about five steps Jonah had caught him with his little finger and threw him into touch.

“Unfortunately we did not have a Plan B and Jonah Lomu just stole the show, scoring four tries out of six. We were well aware of him before the game but we were not expecting him to wreak so much havoc and chaos on us.

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“I remember coming off the field that day and Sean Fitzpatrick said to me that if it was in any consolation the All Blacks team were in awe of him as well. Rugby is not a one-man game but he was the closest thing you had to that,” he said.

Morris was even more astounded by Lomu’s near super-human physical prowess given he was encumbered by kidney issues for the vast majority of his career, and wondered exactly what he would of have been capable of with a clean bill of health.

Like all those who have come forward to pay tribute the 40-year-old father of two, Morris said Lomu was also one of the game’s greats away from the pitch.

“He had such an impact on the game of rugby and, for me, one of the most amazing things is that he was never 100 per cent fit. Because of his illness he was always playing with an incredible handicap but was still way ahead of his time.

“He was an incredible man on and off the field - he was the first one to come up and give you a handshake even if he had just smashed you to smithereens on the pitch.”

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