What's that coming over the hill?
July 28, 2011
The tattooed Banahan is set to make waves in the forthcoming World Cup © Getty Images
Seven years ago this week - on July 27, 2004 - All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu underwent a kidney transplant following his earlier diagnosis with nephritic syndrome. The 63-cap monster winger is still one of the most well respected names in the game - arguably most famous for trampling over England during the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
Remarkably, Lomu turned out in Martin Johnson's testimonial less than a year later after his transplant and went on to play for Cardiff Blues for a short spell. It was Lomu's goal to be included in New Zealand's squad for the 2007 World Cup and tried to make his impact during the 2006 New Zealand provincial championship for North Harbour. However, it soon became apparent that Lomu would not make the cut for the tournament in France. Lomu has recently been found in France plying his trade for Marseille at No.8.
In a tribute to the legendary winger, this week's Scrum Sevens looks at some giant pace men currently terrorising defenders around the world.
Lock-turned-winger-turned-potential-outside-centre Matt Banahan looks set to be included in Martin Johnson's World Cup 30-man squad and in all likelihood will be used as an impact substitute during the campaign.
Despite being 6ft 7in tall, Banahan possesses deft hands which can unlock a defence at ease - just ask Northampton Saints after their trip to the Recreation Ground last season. After starting his career in the second row, it was Brian Ashton who saw the potential Banahan had as a winger. Under the guidance of Steve Meehan, Banahan flourished and made his England bow against Argentina in June 2009 - scoring a try on his debut in the process.
The giant Fijian - weighing in at nearly 20st (123kg) and 6ft 5in - made five appearances for Exeter Chiefs in the 2010-11 season and caused a significant impact during that time - both on and off the field. Nadolo - who has since returned to Australia - was banned from driving for 18 months while in Exeter for drink-driving and was also the reason behind a £5,000 fine for the Devon side. The Chiefs believed the winger arrived on a Fijian passport - meaning he would not qualify as an overseas player - but in fact the winger turned up at Sandy Park on an Australia passport thus contributing to the overseas quota in a match day squad.
Despite the oversight and the relatively short spell in Exeter, the 23-year-old Nadolo will hope to feature in the forthcoming World Cup having played against the All Blacks last Friday. On his day, Nadolo still has the ability to combine his size with deft hands, as shown through his part in Sireli Naqelevuki's try against Northampton Saints last season.
The Fijian flyer has constantly been referred to as the next Lomu. While at Clermont Auvergne, Nalaga possessed an incredible ability to cross the whitewash, running in 61 tries in 90 appearances, and was a key cog in their 2010 Top 14 title-winning side. Nalaga was honoured the previous season by the French league, scooping the 2009 Top 14 Player of the Year award.
However, Nalaga left the 2010 Top 14 champions in May 2011 having returned home to Fiji in November 2010 get married and never to return. Tragically, his wife-to-be was involved in a road accident plunging the flyer into "deep depression." Despite a troubled season, Nalaga has been named in Fiji's provisional 35-man squad for the World Cup. Nalaga - 16st 2lb (105 kg) and 6ft 3in - will hope to make an impact in rugby's showpiece tournament and re-find his electric trying scoring form.
North made a massive impact in Welsh rugby during the 2010-11 season and marked his international debut with two tries against South Africa for the national side. North's rapid ascent to the national side turned numerous heads in northern hemisphere rugby - in part due to his size. North, who is 6ft 4in and weighs in at nearly 17 stone, has the ability and size to cause a sizeable dent in most sides' defences.
North added to his first cap for Wales with a further four appearances for the national side including one more try against the Barbarians on June 4 this year. Having been named in both of Warren Gatland's training camps to Poland, North looks set to be unleashed in the forthcoming World Cup and if he is linked up on opposing wings with Shane Williams, who is just under a foot shorter than North, could form the unlikeliest duo in terms of stature seen on the world stage.
Other noteable mentions from the Celtic League include Edinburgh's free-scoring Tim Visser and Leinster's experienced back Shane Horgan.
Samoan Tuilagi, one of six rugby playing brothers, is a monster on the wing not only possessing the required gas to outsprint most opponents but also has the physique to cause most defenders sleepless nights - before and after the match - just ask Bath's Nick Abendanon. Tuilagi recently shone for the Samoan's against Australia, running in a try and made his presence felt throughout putting in some monster hits on his Aussie counterparts.
The good news for supporters of Leicester Tigers is that they have him on their side, alongside his brother Manu who can certainly pack a punch. The sight of Tuilagi rampaging down the wing is a familiar site to supporters and frequent viewers of the Aviva Premiership and this was explicitly shown through his 13-minute hat-trick over Gloucester in their epic 41-41 draw last season.
If you were to pick one man to oppose the aforementioned Tuilagi on a wing it would probably be Gloucester's Lesley Vainikolo. The Tongan-born wing joined the Cherry and Whites after a hugely successful career in rugby league with the Canberra Raiders and Bradford Bulls. He certainly made a splash in the Premiership, scoring an astonishing five tries on his union debut against Leeds. Despite possessing a Tongan passport, Vainikolo opted to turn out for England - having qualified through residency - and made his debut in the 2008 Six Nations against Wales.
After turning out in every match of the 2008 tournament, Vainikolo found himself banished to the international wilderness under Martin Johnson and is yet to appear for the latest regime. The winger had a troubled 2008-09 season following an arrest in September 2008 after allegedly causing grievous bodily harm - the charges were later dropped. Despite reports linking him with a move back to rugby league in 2010, the wing opted to stay with Gloucester and is contracted up until the end of the 2011-12 season.
'Caucau' is one of rugby's most colourful characters and at times looked certain to be the game's incarnate Jonah Lomu. However, Caucau's greatest battle was always against himself - including a battle against his weight - reportedly tipping the scales at one point at 18st 4lb (116 kg). He launched himself onto the international scene with Fiji's 7s side before scoring 15 tries in 13 appearances over two seasons for the Blues in Super Rugby. An epic 2003 World Cup campaign followed for the flying Fijian and he was transferred to Agen, where he recorded an astonishing 65 tries in 108 games.
However, many argue that Caucau never realised his potential. He had the ability to be as famous as his Kiwi counterpart Lomu but due to run ins with rugby's authorities, Caucau fell foul of the Fijian Rugby Union. Banned for a year after missing a flight to Samoa, he went on to miss the 2006 pre-season for club side Agen after contracting a tropical virus. Following a three-month ban for testing positive for cannabis in March 2008, he eventually parted company with Agen.
However, after being linked with a host of clubs - including Leicester Tigers - Caucau found himself back in Agen and spearheaded their return to rugby's top flight in 2009-10, scoring 13 tries in the process. Caucau's return to Agen proved to be relatively short lived and after failing to turn-up for pre-season training in 2010-11 was once again cast into rugby obscurity. Toulouse picked up the winger as a medical joker for the end of the 2010-11 season and the winger featured prominently for the rest of the season showing signs of being back to his former imperious best.
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