Rugby journalists Stephen Jones and Stuart Barnes have selected their top 10 box office draws in rugby history in an article in The Times.
Former England international Barnes listed Lomu ahead of two former No 10s – England’s World Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson and mercurial ex-All Black Carlos Spencer.
Jones, the veteran Sunday Times rugby correspondent, went for Caucaunibuca at No 1, ahead of Lomu and Wales wing Shane Williams.
Lomu, Barnes said, was “the easiest choice of all the top ten No 1s” in The Times’ rugby ratings series. “With the size of a second row and the speed and dexterity of a wing Lomu transformed our perception of what rugby could be in just one afternoon in Cape Town when he scored four World Cup semi-final tries against England’ [in 1995].
“It was the Michael Jordan moment that didn’t quite create the ‘global game’ but that’s more to do with the sport than the man. The biggest box office draw of them all. RIP.”
AT A GLANCE
Rugby’s 10 greatest box office players (as selected by The Times)
STEPHEN JONES: 1-Rupeni Caucaunibuca (Fiji), 2-Jonah Lomu (NZ), 3-Shane Williams (Wales), 4-David Campese (Australia), 5-Christian Wade (England), 6-Jeremy Guscott (England), 7-Mark Ring (Wales), 8-Timothy Lafaele (Japan), 9-Waisale Serevi (Fiji), 10-Quade Cooper (Australia).
STUART BARNES: 1-Lomu, 2-Jonny Wilkinson (England), 3-Carlos Spencer (NZ), 4-Micky Skinner (England), 5-Finn Russell (Scotland), 6-Cooper, 7-Leone Nakarawa (Fiji), 8-Eric Champ (France), 9-Ring, 10-Simon Zebo (Ireland).
LIST | 5 England Internationals Who Started With a Bang But Faded Fast
Some players who don’t make it at international level do occasionally make bright starts. In fact, plenty can look like international superstars in the first few caps before things quickly go downhill.
Here’s a look back at five England internationals who actually started very brightly, but quickly faded away…
1. Denny Solomona
A prolific rugby league winger, Solomona has continued that eye-catching form with Sale Sharks, scoring 41 tries in 68 games so far.
His England career began with the definition of a ‘bang’ – a dream first run out in the England shirt, he came off the bench to score a last-minute winner in a dramatic 38-34 win against Argentina in San Juan on June 10, 2017.
He won the last of five caps against South Africa in June 2018 and has vowed to put his off-field problems behind him. His Premiership form before lockdown earned him some admirers – time for an international recall?