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What happened the first time George Gregan tried to tackle Jonah Lomu

By Ned Lester
(Photo by Dave Rogers/Allsport)

Wallaby great George Gregan admitted he was dumbfounded the first time he tried to tackle the late, great Jonah Lomu.


Gregan recalled the story for RugbyPass’ Offload podcast, where he praised Lomu for being an exceptional talent on the rugby field and a “beautiful human being” off of it.

The great All Black winger and Wallaby halfback squared off a number of times, Gregan’s first on field interaction with Lomu left a lasting impression.

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“He was just a colossus, Jonah. I was really fortunate to play him, I played him at the peak of his powers, remember because he was on dialysis right from the get-go, so he was never better than 80 percent of his physical ability because of that. They managed that really well, all through his career.

“You still had big wingers, you had Inga Tuigamala, like Damian Smith was strong, I’m not comparing but he was a big, tall, six foot plus winger. The Islander boys are like super athletic, super fast but nothing like Jonah. Jonah played No 8 at schoolboys.

“I remember in that (semi)final, we kicked it off and they went split split and they went across and I’ve gone across to make a cover tackle, and it was a good tackle, I got under his fend, chopped his legs, squeeze – you know that whole thing, head’s in the right position, squeeze – I’m thinkning timber baby, he’s coming down.

“Honestly, I put a good shot on him, like bang, and squeeze, and then I’m holding onto this boot, it’s about a size 14 Adidas or whatever it is and then he’s just running down the field with one sock (out).


“I’ve just got his boot and I’ve looked at that and I actually executed a really good tackle, who is this bloke?

“That was the first time I came across him and that’s when I realised, when he’s in full stride, you couldn’t go low on him. It was impossible becasue he was so big and strong through (his lower body) and his stride length… you just couldn’t get him together.”


Lomu is now remembered for being one of the most physically dominant players of all time, but Gregan admired the famous No 11’s full skillset.

“He could beat you in an in and out too, he had incredible speed. He could play in, play out, beat you with his big fend, he could obviously run over the top of you as many people discovered.


“He didn’t have the big step, he was real swervy, he moved so beautifully for a big man, he was poetry in motion. But then also, he could just be a destructive wrecking ball.”

Gregan was asked what Lomu was like off the field, if they had shared a drink together after any games.

“Beautiful man, beautiful human being, he wouldn’t drink too much but he was just a lovely, gentle soul. Just a beautiful human being, a real loss and would do anything for anyone. i don’t think you could pay a bigger compliment.”


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mknz 464 days ago

Jonah Lomu didn’t play at the 2003 RWC.

isaac 465 days ago

But his defense was below par...Lomu was only good in attack

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