Former Scotland centre Marcus Di Rollo has fond memories of the time he was lucky enough to play against rugby great Jonah Lomu.
Tributes have been pouring in from around the sporting world after it was announced yesterday that winger Lomu, who was the star of the 1995 and 1999 World Cups with New Zealand, had passed away aged 40.
And Di Rollo, now head coach of Watsonians, had his first ever outing in a Scotland jersey up against a Barbarians team that included the star man.
That was in May 2001 at Murrayfield when just more than 28,000 people gathered to watch the non-cap match and honour the memory of ex-Scotland player Gordon Brown.
“I remember that I was part of the wider squad and was just trying to make my breakthrough with Scotland at the time,” Di Rollo said. “At first I thought I would be on the bench, but Kenny Logan got injured and I was promoted to the starting XV.
“I was in the centre while Cammy Murray had to try and mark the big man.
“It was just amazing to be getting my chance with Scotland and to be playing against a team with the likes of Lomu in it was a dream.”
Before that match Lomu had played in five Test matches against Scotland for the All Blacks and he also played them once more later that year with his country.
In his six caps against the Scots he won six and scored seven tries in the process – and in the Barbarians match he ran in four tries.
Former Edinburgh player Di Rollo, now 37, said: “I think I played pretty well in that match and I was lucky enough to grab a try which was a special moment. That was slightly overshadowed by Lomu getting four, every time he got the ball he looked like he would get over the try line while he gave a couple of tries to his team-mates that he could have scored.”
In the end the select side came out on top 74-31 and Lomu was given a standing ovation as he left the field just after the hour.
Di Rollo believes Lomu changed the game of rugby union forever.
“Like everyone else I watched how he completely altered the game in the 1995 World Cup and was running around and through people for fun,” he stated.
“Nobody had ever played the way he did and often you find that when wingers are that size then they tend to fall down in terms of skill, but he seemed to have it all.
“He also came across as a lovely guy and rugby has lost a legend too soon.”