My favourite Jonah Lomu story

..was told at a recent Twickenham lunch by Paul Wallace the Ireland and Lions prop…

When Ireland played the All Blacks in the 1995 RWC no-one had heard of Lomu….at the team meeting the players were told that New Zealand had a Number 8 playing on the wing and it would be a good idea to kick the ball to him and capitalise on his inevitable mistakes…….

Paul’s brother Ritchie was playing on the wing opposite Lomu. Paul was watching from the bench. As Lomu made his first run Ritchie set himself for the tackle…and was left dazed and confused on the turf. Paul said he winced as he witnessed this…

Zinzan Brooke the legendary NZ Number 8 was also at this lunch.

Wallace said the night before the Ireland v All Blacks game Lomu had received a fax at the team hotel decrying his abilities , saying he was  really a forward who  had no business playing in the backs and that his opposite number would waste him the next day.

The fax was allegedly signed by Ritchie Wallace.

According to Zinzan..the letter was actually written by Sean Fitzpatrick…the All Blacks captain……

 

 

 

 

 

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My top six pilgrimage routes (so far)

Top 6 Pilgrimage Routes

6 – St Hilda’s Way. Opened this summer. Forty three miles starting from the beautiful village church of Hinderwell in North Yorkshire where St Hilda herself brought forth water  on her way to Whitby.   The route crosses the moors and takes in a number of quaint English village churches all associated with Hilda. It finishes  among the ruins of Whitby Abbey perched high on the clifftop – also the setting for a memorable scene in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Walk here at night and you’re likely to come across a few Goths soaking up the atmosphere.

 

Avebury

5 – The White Horse Trail. Not a pilgrimage in the true sense but this 90 mile path through Wiltshire  takes in eight giant horses cut into the chalk downs . The spiritual element – if that’s what you’re after – comes from passing through Avebury Stone Circle – a truly impressive feat of Neolithic engineering that for my money outshines Stonehenge. The Druids may have practised here  long after the great circle of Sarsen stones was constructed  but that doesn’t stop their modern day descendants holding many festivals  here – most seem to involve copious quantities of alcohol.

4 – St Paul’s Trail, Turkey. Not for the faint hearted but stick with it and you’ll have a tale to tell the grandkids. This 300 mile route heads due north from the ancient ruins of Perga near Antalya to the equally ancient ruins of Antioch in Pisidia near the modern town of Yalvac.   It was here  that Christianity was really born after Paul and Barnabas were chased out of  the synagogue. They “shook the dust” from their feet and turned to the gentiles instead. The Bible actually says next to nothing about that journey but this route – drawn up by English ex pat Kate Clow – follows a direct line and traces stretches of ancient Roman Road that St Paul would probably have used. It cuts through forests and mountains and stunning canyons.  The waymarking can be variable and accommodation is basic to say the least but the locals are always pleased to see a tourist far from the beaten track and do their best to help with food and lodging. Two fish farms on the way provide beds and the best fish dinner you’ll ever eat.  Beware the Anatolian herding dogs though. Not  to be trifled with

3 – Mount Athos, Greece. If you’re a woman then skip this one.  In fact you have no choice. The Orthodox monks who live in 20 monasteries stretched across the mountain have banned females for centuries.  That includes female animals as well. Although it’s not an island it feels like one. The only way of getting on to this semi-autonomous enclave is by boat. Only ten non-Greeks are allowed on it per day and you have to apply for a special permit. You then have four days in which to walk to whichever monasteries you have pre-booked, You eat in silence with the monks who can be quite a dour lot if truth be told. But accommodation and food is free. And you are welcomed at the end of a day’s trekking with the traditional glass of Raki, Ice cold water and Turkish delight.  You can also hike to the top of Mount Athos if you’re feeling particularly tough. Just don’t take any pictures of the monks – they don’t like it.

2 – Caminho da Fey, Brazil. Three hundred miles through the sugar cane plantations and mountains of the stunningly beautiful Minas Gerais state in South East Brazil. This trail was designed by the lugubrious Almiro Grings, a retired businessman who twice walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain and decided to construct something in Brazil. Yellow arrows point the way and there is  a network of cheap hotels and pousadas (hostels)  You may want to give the plantations a miss after a day or so..the monotony can be wearing. But  once  you’re in the mountains – wow!  You’ll see the most breathtaking night skies,  awe inspiring sunrises and sunsets and drink free Cachaca   with friendly locals (it’s a sugar based spirit that goes into  Caiparinha cocktails)  The Caminho finishes in Aparaceda  where the second biggest basilica in the world holds  the tiny clay statue of the Madonna  found in  nearby river in 1717. It’s been linked with many miracles. Twelve  million South American Catholics visit the basilica every year . But don’t worry – only a handful  walk the Caminho.

1 – Camino da  Santiago de Compostela.  Spain. Had to be really. Start from anywhere you like but the classic route is the Camino Frances – 500 miles from the French town of St Jean Pied de Port in the Pyrenees.   Again, yellow arrows point the way ever westwards – it’s almost impossible to get lost. You pass through numerous tiny towns and villages but also the three major cities of Pamplona, Burgos and Leon where the nightlife provides  a welcome break from  the rigours of the trail.  Aubergues (hostels) provide cheap and basic accommodation  and meals. Do it in summer – it’s hot but not murderously so  (this is the North of Spain remember) Finish at Santiago where the bones of the St James the Apostle are said to rest..or carry on to the coast at Finisterre (end of the world)  Some peregrinos (pilgrims) burn their clothes there in a symbolic act of renewal. Along the way you’ll walk with  pilgrims from across the world. Some for a few hours, some for a few days and maybe some for the estimated 4 weeks it takes the average hiker. It’s likely that lifelong friendships will be formed. Be warned though – many pilgrims find it difficult to return to the routine of normal life   almost everyone gets the post Camino blues.