Rugby: Lomu amazed at the future stars

By Campbell Burnes

Jonah Lomu thinks the contest is a great learning opportunity. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Jonah Lomu thinks the contest is a great learning opportunity. Photo / Brett Phibbs

There is a good reason Jonah Lomu spent only one year in the New Zealand Colts after leaving school.

The big wing was busy being rugby's first global superstar in 1995-96. But the 39-year-old Junior World Championship ambassador has fond memories of the 1994 Colts, the equivalent of today's New Zealand Under 20s. He scored five tries in three matches on their Australian tour after being sent back to improve his game after his first two, mixed, tests for the All Blacks.

Eleven of that side, plus Lomu, coached by Lin Colling, went on to represent the All Blacks after winning all three games handsomely.

"That was a really good side. Tana [Umaga] was my other wing. When you went through it, it was like a who's who of rugby," said Lomu, back on his old stamping ground and pressing the flesh in Pukekohe before watching New Zealand dispatch Scotland.

"It was good for me to go back and rehone what I needed to take the step up again to the All Blacks.

This is what the Junior World Championship does. It prepares guys for the next step. There used to be a huge gap and this is filling that void. You have a greater understanding of what's required to be a test-match-level player. And it's under pressure too. It's like the old tours the All Blacks used to have, with midweek matches to blood some players."

Lomu would love to see more people coming to the games to see what the IRB deems "the future stars of rugby".

"A lot of people are missing out watching all those youngsters coming through. They may not know their names now, but there are a few players there that look like they've got the goods to go all the way."

Prolific wingers Tevita Li of New Zealand and Nathan Earle of England have, among others, caught his eye.

"Those two look really handy. You can see why JK [Blues coach John Kirwan] chose Tevita. He's made the most of all his chances, and he's scoring great wingers' tries, with a turn of pace and strength.

"The overall standard is amazing," said Lomu. "The majority of these guys will end up with Currie Cup, Super rugby or European contracts and some guys could even push for end of year tours in 2014."

- NZ Herald

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