Rugby Union

Four people who have changed Rugby Union

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In the last week, there have been two huge pieces of news that have rocked Rugby Union to the core.

The biggest star in the sport's history has died at 40-years-old, whilst the most capped man has retired from the game.

Jonah Lomu changed the way that rugby viewed the wing position. Up until his introduction in 1994, wingers were expected to go around defences rather than through them, but he did both to his legendary standard.


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Richie McCaw has made a living from the illegal, but credit where it is due, he was one of the best flankers to play the game and to earn so many caps whilst achieving some incredible results is a testament to his game.

In honour of Lomu’s passing and McCaw’s retirement, this article will look at players who have changed the sport.

John P.R Williams

Sometimes considered the best to ever play the game, JPR brought a huge attacking game to the fullback position and changed the way 15s would approach the counter attack.

He won the Grand Slam in 1971, 1976 and 1978 and the Triple Crown on five occasions.

He was the best player on the victorious 1971 Lions tour in New Zealand, with a long range drop goal winning the series. He was an equally critical member of the ‘Invincibles’ tour in South Africa three years later.

A man with so many accolades and natural ability changed the game and was deservedly awarded an MBE for services to the sport.

Jonny Wilkinson

England’s talisman and the rest of the world’s irritant. He was the saviour in 2003 and is one of the most humble and understated sportsmen.

His autobiography is worth a read, in which you get an idea just how hard he worked to be at his best.

The rest of the world can say he was overrated, but, in fact, he was a complete athlete, the ideal role model and that drop goal sent him straight into the spotlight of the globe.

He had an impeccable boot but tackled like a centre. Whether he changed the game as much as the others mentioned here could perhaps be debated, but he - along with Dan Carter - paved the way for new fly-halves that would aspire to his level.

He was such an incredible athlete that he probably could have been playing in 2015, had he not retired. Hate him or love him, you cannot doubt Wilkinson’s legacy has certainly had an impact.

Richie McCaw

The man accumulated 148 caps for the best team on the planet, with 110 of those coming as captain. He has won two consecutive World Cups and ten Tri Nations/Rugby Championship titles, scoring 135 points during his international career.

He is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, similar to Wilkinson, he is widely disliked outside of New Zealand simply because he was so good at bending the rules. But he developed the idea of a poacher at a breakdown and became a role model for those looking to lead the way and had an eye for a steal. McCaw will certainly be missed, maybe not so much by the opposition.

Jonah Lomu

A legend known to all. A humble man with a gentle-giant personality.

He possessed blistering pace for someone of great size. His demolition of England’s defence in the 1995 World Cup will always be remembered.

He has undoubtedly changed the game, paving the way for the gradual size increase of wingers in today’s game, such as George North, Julian Savea or Waisake Naholo.

Lomu became Rugby Union’s biggest star. His career - cut short by his rare kidney disease - spanned 63 caps picking up 185 points. He was the youngest All Black ever at the time when he made his debut 45 days after his 19th birthday in 1994.

His death rocked the sport but he will always be remembered for his contribution to Rugby whilst living on through the countless thousands he inspired to pick up the wrong shaped ball.

R.I.P Jonah Lomu: 1975-2015

Rugby Union
Jonny Wilkinson
IRB Rugby World Cup

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