FORMER Scotland wing Craig Joiner had never seen anyone like Jonah Lomu before facing him at the 1995 World Cup.
But he believes the late New Zealand star’s impact at that tournament changed rugby forever and opened the door for a generation of juggernaut widemen to take the game by storm.
Joiner was Lomu’s direct opponent in Pretoria when the Scots faced the All Blacks in the 1995 quarter-final.
He may only have scored once in his side’s 48-30 win as they set up a semi-final clash with England but the rapid foot movement and raw power of the 18 stone and 6ft 5ins Kiwi left former Edinburgh back Joiner stunned.
Paying tribute to the 63-times capped All Black - who died suddenly aged just 40 on Wednesday morning - Joiner said: “Everywhere he appeared on the pitch Jonah was a menace because people were just not used to playing against someone of that size.
“If he wanted to hand-off or run over a second-row forward, he had the power to do it. He was devastating on the wing and there was not a lot teams could do to stop him when he was on form.
“He broke the mould. Not only was he so powerful, but he was light on his feet with an ability to change direction quickly and that’s what caught people off guard. For a big man it was unbelievable just how fast he was.
“You have to say that he changed rugby. If you rolled on two or three years from 1995, wingers like him were common place, when before they really weren’t.
“All of a sudden wingers were coming inside to run crash balls because he had shown how it could be done.
“It really is very sad what has happened to him at such a young age.”
Lomu was still a relatively unknown proposition on the world stage as the 1995 tournament got under way.
But he soon established himself as rugby’s first global superstar, with his sensational four-try display over the English a week after helping to end Scotland’s campaign the undoubted highlight of his stellar career.
And Joiner admits he learned the hard way just how lethal Lomu could be on the wing as he watched the giant New Zealander run away from him time and again during that last-eight clash in South Africa.
He said: “I’d heard a little bit about him before the tournament but like all these things, you wonder if the hype is backed up by the reality - and it was.
“A star was born at that World Cup. I watched the pool matches when he barged his way through Wales and Ireland, scoring tries with ease.
“But leading up to our game with the All Blacks I wasn’t too worried. I was always quick and there weren’t many wingers who were quicker than me. I thought I could take him down so my objective was just to show him the outside, which he duly took twice. He scored once in our game but also came up with a couple of impressive offloads.
“I wasn’t scared of him - you shouldn’t be playing rugby if you’re scared of getting hurt - but he wasn’t somebody I particularly wanted to tackle head on because the end result probably would have been worse.”