Julian Savea is already being talked about as one of the world's best wings, at just 24, but can he really be compared to the great Jonah Lomu?
Like the Ali v Tyson, Pele v Maradona and Bradman v Tendulkar arguments that run and run, this is another discussion that will fire up rugby fans. So, who is the better all-round player? We look at the tale of the tape for these two colossal Kiwis.
Lomu: Jonah Lomu is arguably the most explosive player ever to grace the field of play. In his pomp, he was virtually unstoppable. In the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals in 1999, such was his menace, that France fullback Xavier Garbosjosa, just politely invited him through the defensive line allowing the 6ft 5in, 18st 10lbs behemoth crash over the line. Then there’s the infamous demolition of the England backline in 1995, when just 19, of which Tony Underwood and Mike Catt need no reminding. How about the hat-trick against Scotland in Dunedin, in 2000? We could go on…
Savea: Some would suggest Savea is Lomu-lite, tipping the weighing scales tip at 16st 4lbs and 6ft 3in, but the Hurricane is also extremely powerful. When he dips his shoulder he has the strength to bounce opposition defenders on their backsides, as he did with Israel Dagg to brutal effect against the Crusaders in 2013, the Springboks Zane Kirchner, or more recently against three Pumas in New Zealand’s recent 23-10 victory over Argentina. Try to defend the Savea ‘bump’ at your peril
Lomu: Will Carling famously labelled Lomu a ‘freak’ after his four-try show in 1995, and for a man of such bulkk, it’s remarkable he was clocked at 10.7 sec 100m time. Lomu could ‘gas’ opponents as much as steamroller them and his first of two tries against France in the 1999 World Cup semi, and many of his Counties Manukau scores showed he had more than enough top-end pace for a wide-man.
Savea: Savea is no slouch in the speed stakes. When he makes a break in the open-field he takes some catching, but he is not just a straight-line runner, either and possesses quick-feet that can spin him out of a tackle and into space. And just look at how he covers huge ground to make defensive tackles when caught on the drift.
Lomu: The big man knew where the try-line was with 37 tries in 63 internationals, and he is still the top scorer in World Cup history with 15 tries in two tournaments. What was impressive about Lomu was the bigger the occasion, the more likely he was to find his way to the try-line.
Savea: He has the greatest strike-rate in All Black history with 27 tries in 27 appearances. You could say that one advantage is that he’s in an all-conquering side which has only lost once in two years. Being able to play outside creator-in-chief, Conrad Smith also helps, though Lomu played alongside the likes of Frank Bunce and Tana Umaga who weren’t too shabby!
Lomu: For head-on tackles Jonah could destroy opposition attackers, but on the turn Lomu was not the most nimble on his feet, with some joking that he’d need to three-point turn when a kick was put over the top of the defence. Jonah’s workrate around the pitch was also not always the most industrious
Savea: He has a very good defensive game – he can mark further infield and chase better, he can turn briskly and he is comfortable under a high ball. His front on tackles, notably against Rob Kearney and Robbie Fruean brought audible gasps from the watching crowds. He can hit. And hit very, very hard. He can also execute a text-book cover tackle, as seen with Marland Yarde’s wrap up this summer.
Lomu: The legend was an instinctive player. He had the odd spark of skill, as evidenced with chip-and-chase tries for the Hurricanes or an offload after he’d finished smashing through defenders, but he wasn’t the most deft of athletes. Why? Because he didn’t have to be. The less said about Jonah’s kicking game, the better.
Savea: Did you see that offload to TJ Perenara against Argentina in the 2014 Rugby Championship? Savea is an intelligent footballer who is still improving and his predatory nature is complimented by the fact he can flick, punt and run off the ball if he needs to.