Rugby World Cup: Lomu back in the spotlight

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The Independent Online
JONAH LOMU, the New Zealand winger who has been beset with illness and injury problems since making a mighty impact in the last World Cup, is ready to step back into the spotlight in his side's opening game against Tonga at Ashton Gate, Bristol, on Sunday.

Early indications from the All Black camp suggest that Christian Cullen is likely to play at centre to allow Jonah Lomu to return to the starting line-up.

Lomu, whose feats at the 1995 World Cup in Johannesburg, made him the world's best known rugby player, has been used as a tactical substitute this year after the decision of the coach, John Hart, to switch Cullen and Jeff Wilson.

Wilson, who has played most of his rugby for New Zealand on the right wing, was moved to full-back this season with Cullen swapping successfully to the wing. New Zealand have been struggling to replace Frank Bunce at centre and may have found the answer in Cullen. He scored two tries from centre after coming on as a replacement against South Africa this year and now has 30 tries from his 35 Tests.

New Zealand held an open practice at Bromsgrove yesterday, before their Group B game with Tonga, which they will treat as a warm-up for their potentially crucial game with England at Twickenham on 9 October.

Tonga are convinced, however, that they have done enough homework on the All Blacks to give them a scare. They will rival the new Kiwi haka - which is described as more aggressive - with their own: the Battle Cry of the `Ikale Tahi'.

"They will be looking ahead to their game against England, while we're totally focused on beating them on Sunday," the Tongan coach, Dave Waterston, said. "We've been working on improving our scrummaging. We know that we might not match them in the lineouts, but we are prepared to be creative in that department."

Waterston was the technical adviser to the Springbok's during their victory over the All Black's in the 1995 World Cup final. Similar preparations have been made for this game with over 100 videos of the All Blacks watched and analysed.