Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Home Sport Rugby

New Zealand legend Jonah Lomu who changed the face of rugby union

Published 18/11/2015

Jonah Lomu was a giant of a man whose remarkable impact on rugby union reverberated throughout the sporting world.

New Zealander Lomu, who has died in Auckland aged 40, had a game-changing presence. He will be remembered as rugby union's first - and biggest - superstar of the sport's 20-year professional era.

Those many millions who observed his rise from schoolboy number eight to a repeated match-winning All Blacks wing can consider themselves fortunate to have witnessed a special talent, one so gifted that he once won 10 different events on the same sports day at Wesley College.

Born in Auckland to Tongan parents in 1975, Jonah Tali Lomu spent the early part of his childhood in Tonga. Lomu later revealed those early years were not always happy, enduring a sometimes difficult relationship with his father.

In a television documentary about his life, entitled 'Anger Within', that first aired in 2013, the Rugby Heaven website reported that Lomu spoke about a father who was "quite violent when he was drunk."

Lomu soon began making an impression on the rugby pitch, though, and it was the New Zealand schoolboys selectors who first spotted his rare talent, albeit as a back-row forward, before he switched to wing - Lomu later described it as the best move he could have made - and starred at under-19 and under-21 international level.

At the 1994 Hong Kong Sevens, 18-year-old Lomu announced his arrival on rugby's global stage, outplaying established star names like Waisale Serevi and David Campese, being named player of the tournament and heralding a senior All Blacks debut that arrived a short time later.

Aged just 19 years and 45 days, 6ft 5in Lomu lined up against France in Christchurch to become the All Blacks' youngest Test player, breaking a record that had been held by Edgar Wrigley since 1905. Lomu went on to win 63 caps, score 37 Test tries and feature in two World Cups.

His arrival at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa was eagerly-awaited. Despite being a rookie international performer in terms of experience, he had already shown enough of his rare ability to suggest that rugby union's global stage would also give him a suitable platform to display such wondrous talent.

And so it proved, but in a way that even by Lomu's box-office standards, few would have thought possible.

Jonah Lomu has died at the age of 40.
Jonah Lomu has died at the age of 40.
Lomu's made a huge impact at the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
In 1995, Jonah Lomu became rugby's first global superstar when he took the Rugby World Cup by storm. Lomu scored seven tries in the tournament but it was his performance against England in the semi-final which really caught the eye. The twenty-year-old winger, who weighed just under twenty stone and towered over his opposition at 6'5", famously trampled over Mike Catt on his way to scoring four tries and dumping England out of the tournament in a 45-29 victory for the All Blacks. After the game, England captain Will Carling famously described Lomu as 'a freak'. The Kiwi's further eight tries in the 1999 tournament make Lomu the all-time Rugby World Cup top try-scorer with fifteen tries.
Jonah Lomu (right) is a big draw, despite never having won the Rugby World Cup
Born in Auckland to Tongan parents in 1975, Jonah Tali Lomu spent the early part of his childhood in Tonga.
He moved out to the left wing by the time he won the first of his 63 Test caps as the youngest ever All Black - against France at the age of 19 years and 45 days - and it was as a move none would argue with.
One of the All Blacks greatest players was also one of the sports most intimidating. Standing at 6ft 5in, Lomu would dwarf his opponents and the ones that dared tackle him would be swatted away like flies. That he has since moved into the world of body building and can now be seen in skimpy underwear striking silly poses has somewhat tarnished his fearful reputation.
Superstar: Jonah Lomu in action for the All Blacks
In front of a world record crowd of 109,874 in Sydney, Jonah Lomu scored a last minute try for the All Blacks, giving them an incredible victory against Australia.
His imposing frame meant he was soon making an impression on the rugby pitch. However, when he represented New Zealand schoolboys, it was as a number eight.
Jonah Lomu limbers up with the New Zealand squad in Auckland today" data-title=" Jonah Lomu limbers up with the New Zealand squad in Auckland today" >
Jonah Lomu limbers up with the New Zealand squad in Auckland today
Despite his World Cup heroics, Lomu never won a World Cup.
Lomu looks on during the IRB 2011 Rugby World Cup Opening Ceremony at Eden Park on September 9, 2011 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
His international career ended in 2002 and t he following year he spent the first of many hours receiving kidney dialysis treatment. The year after that Lomu revealed he needed a transplant. He had it - but his body rejected it in 2011 and the dialysis continued.
Lomu was in the United Kingdom for the recent World Cup, where he tweeted passionately about the sport he still loved. The success of "the brothers in black" was relished publicly by someone who had lived the moment himself. He is survived by wife Nadene and their young sons Brayley and Dhyreille.
Rugby World Cup 1995 New Zealand vs Ireland Jonah Lomu ©INPHO/Billy Stickland
Jonah Lomu is tackled by Gary Longwell of Ireland Mandatory Credit©INPHO/Billy Stickland
Ireland v Barbarians. All Black Jonah Lomu playing for the Barbarians breaks through the Irish defence during the friendly at Lansdowne Road, Dublin Sunday May 28 2000. PA Photo: Chris Bacon...S
Jonah Lomu scores a try against Ireland during the second half of their international rugby union game at Lansdowne Road, Dublin, November 17, 2001. REUTERS/Paul McErlane...S
New Zealand Rugby star, Jonah Lomu at the launch of Ballygowan's new Sports Pack in Dublin's Shelbourne Hotel. Picturen By David Conachy. 16/01/2003.
All Black star Jonah Lomu is tackled by four year old Dan Sheehan at the launch of the new Ballygowan sports Pack at Stephens Green in Dublin. 16/01/2003
Jonah Lomu of New Zealand sings the national anthem before the start of the England v NZ International, Twickenham, London 09/11/2002.
New Zealand Rugby star, Jonah Lomu at the launch of Ballygowan's new Sports Pack in Dublin's Shelbourne Hotel. Picturen By David Conachy. 16/01/2003.
Jonah Lomu and Denis Hickie in the International Friendly Ireland vs New Zealand All Blacks 17/11/2001. ©INPHO/Patrick Bolger
Cardiff Blues and former All Black Jonah Lomu arrives for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, Sunday December 11, 2005.
Rugby Legend Jonah Lomu turns on the Christmas Lights in Limerick.

He scored seven tries during the tournament - New Zealand reached the final before losing to the Springboks after extra-time in Johannesburg - with four of those touchdowns famously accounting for semi-final opponents England.

On a Sunday afternoon in Cape Town, Lomu delivered what remains the greatest individual Rugby World Cup performance as he combined awesome power with searing pace that scattered England's defence to all parts. He unforgettably "ran over" England back Mike Catt for one of his scores as England conceded 45 points and Lomu cemented a special place in rugby history. England captain Will Carling later described him as "a freak."

The World Cup proved a special place for Lomu, as four years later he scored eight tries during a competition played on English and Welsh soil. That remains a World Cup record for one tournament, since equalled by South African Bryan Habana and New Zealander Julian Savea, as does his career World Cup tally of 15 touchdowns, which is now shared with Habana.

Far greater challengers were to arrive for Lomu off the pitch, though. Having already been diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome, a serious kidney disorder, the New Zealand Rugby Union announced in 2003 - six months after Lomu's final Test match appearance - that he had been put on kidney dialysis three times a week.

He subsequently underwent a kidney transplant, but his body rejected it seven years later and dialysis treatment continued.

Lomu attempted a rugby comeback in 2005, playing in a testimonial match at Twickenham for England World Cup-winning captain Martin Johnson, while he also signed for New Zealand provincial team North Harbour and had a brief stint with Cardiff Blues, scoring a European Cup try against Italian side Calvisano and then guaranteeing a capacity crowd for the return fixture in Wales a week later, when he made his Blues home debut.

Lomu retired from rugby in 2007 - he was appointed as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday Honours list the same year - although the odd charity match appearance continued, and he was a popular, in-demand visitor to the recent England-hosted World Cup, carrying out considerable promotional work.

During that tournament, Lomu tweeted passionately about the sport he still loved. The success of "the brothers in black" - New Zealand's 2015 world champion squad - was relished publicly by someone who had thrived at the sport's highest level.

Tragically, less than three weeks later, others were tweeting with the same passion about Lomu.

He is survived by wife Nadene and their young sons Brayley and Dhyreille.

How to Complain

If you have a complaint about the editorial content of the Belfast Telegraph or Sunday Life then contact the Editor here. If you are not satisfied with the response provided then you can contact the Independent Press Standards Organisation here

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph