Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Home Sport Rugby

Rugby mourns 'first global superstar' Jonah Lomu

Published 18/11/2015

Jonah Lomu will be remembered as one of rugby's greatest ever stars after changing the game forever, according to his former All Blacks skipper Sean Fitzpatrick.

The retired New Zealand wing's passing at the age of just 40 was announced in the early hours of Wednesday morning, leaving fans across the globe shocked.

Lomu, who scored 37 tries in 63 Test matches, had suffered from health problems since his retirement from the game in 2002 due to a rare kidney disease. He died after suddenly collapsing just hours after returning from a trip to Dubai.

The Auckland-born former Cardiff Blue is best remembered for his impact on the 1995 Rugby World Cup, when having gone into the tournament with only two caps to his name he scored seven tries, including four in a devastating semi-final display against England.

Former New Zealand captain Fitzpatrick told Sky Sports News: "He was the first global superstar. Everyone wanted to be Jonah Lomu.

"The way the game changed was because of the way he played. He will go down as one of the greatest."

England attack coach Mike Catt was the man Lomu famously trampled over during his semi-final blitz but he paid his own heartfelt tribute.

"I'm massively sad but the legacy he's left is incredible," Catt told "He's inspired millions of people around the world to watch the sport and start playing. He changed rugby union during the 1995 World Cup.

"His ability to move 18 stone was amazing. He didn't want to run through people every time, but he did have that ability and his footwork and speed off the mark was second to none, you just couldn't get near the guy. But if he needed to run through four of you he could."

Lomu was first spotted by New Zealand's schoolboy selectors whilst playing as a back-row forward for Wesley College in his native Auckland but was put on the path to stardom when he switched position to the wing.

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 played for several domestic teams in his homeland - Auckland Blues, Chiefs and Hurricanes, North Harbour, Counties Manukau and Wellington - and also had a stint in Wales with the Blues, for whom he played 10 matches.

He retired from the game in 2007, the year he was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame. He also joined the IRB Hall of Fame four years later.

Zinzan Brooke, another of Lomu's one-time All Blacks colleagues, told BBC Radio 5 live: "He could have played in any position he wanted to on the field. It was [former All Blacks coach] Laurie Mains who decided to play him on the wing.

"It's amazing what he did in that '95 World Cup. He launched himself on the international scene and changed the way the game was played in an instant.

"He was very calm but you knew you had a force within the team. He was phenomenal.

"When you think of the World Cup you will always go back to Jonah running round or over opponents. You'll always remember the superstar that was Jonah Lomu.

"I'm still in shock now realising a great friend has gone."

Former All Blacks doctor John Mayhew, who also acted as a personal doctor to Lomu, insisted his former patient was in "pretty good shape" prior to his death.

Mayhew told TVNZ's One News: "Jonah has been in pretty good shape, he arrived back from Dubai yesterday and unfortunately suddenly collapsed and died at home this morning.

"He has been a fantastic person and a great friend, I have been his doctor for a long time. It's staggering, a very sad day ."

New Zealand prime minister John Key was also among those paying tribute to Lomu, who was in the United Kingdom to see his compatriots lift the World Cup last month.

Key tweeted: "Deeply saddened to hear of Jonah Lomu's unexpected passing this morning. The thoughts of the entire country are with his family."

World Rugby chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "Today rugby has lost one of its true greats. Not just one of the finest players ever to play the game, but a gentleman, a role model and an icon.

"Jonah's contribution to rugby cannot be overstated. He was the first superstar player and, through his sheer brilliance and love of the game, he brought much joy to the rugby family and took our sport to a new level of profile. He burst onto the scene with an energy, passion and intensity, the likes of which had never before been witnessed.

"Jonah will be remembered as a pioneering player, a gentleman and a great friend to the sport he loved. Our thoughts are with his family and the entire New Zealand rugby community at this sad time."

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?

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph