Jonah Lomu: Tributes pour in for rugby legend

Jonah Lomu won 63 caps for New Zealand, including a four-try demolition of England in the 1995 World Cup semi-final. Picture: Simon Bruty /Allsport
Jonah Lomu won 63 caps for New Zealand, including a four-try demolition of England in the 1995 World Cup semi-final. Picture: Simon Bruty /Allsport
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Stalwarts of Scottish rugby yesterday joined with other players, supporters and officials around the world to pay tribute to Jonah Lomu, regarded as one of the finest players of the game.

The legendary former All Blacks winger died in the small hours of yesterday morning, aged just 40. While details of the exact cause of his death remain unclear, he had been suffering health problems since retiring in 2002 due to nephrotic syndrome, a rare kidney disease.

Jonah Lomu was a legend, blazed a trail, took the sport into a different era

Kenny Logan

The unexpected death of the player who took part in 63 Tests for New Zealand and redefined his sport thanks to an extraordinary blend of pace and power was keenly felt by many of those who lined up against him in dark blue.

Former Scotland wing Craig Joiner said he had never seen anyone like Lomu before facing him at the 1995 World Cup, where his performances helped change the sport forever.

Joiner was part of a Scotland side that lost 48-30 to New Zealand in the quarter-final, a match that helped cement Lomu’s status as a rugby great. “He broke the mould. Not only was he so powerful, but he was light on his feet with an ability to change direction quickly and that’s what caught people off guard,” Joiner said. “For a big man it was unbelievable just how fast he was.

“You have to say that he changed rugby. If you rolled on two or three years from 1995, wingers like him were commonplace, when before they really weren’t. All of a sudden wingers were coming inside to run crash balls because he had shown how it could be done. It really is very sad what has happened to him at such a young age.”

Kenny Logan, who lined up alongside Lomu for the Barbarians against Ireland in 2000, was also among those to pay tribute.

He said: “Jonah Lomu was a legend, blazed a trail, took the sport into a different era with his global recognition.”

Former England flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson said he was “devastated” to learn of the death of a man who was “the greatest superstar” and “a fabulous human being”.

Lomu had only returned to New Zealand with his family on Tuesday after spending almost two months in Europe during the Rugby World Cup, where he was often mobbed by fans and appeared in good health.

He underwent a kidney transplant in 2004 and attempted to re-start his career against the advice of doctors, playing in Wales and France before finally retiring in 2006.

He had a setback in 2011 when his body rejected his donor kidney and was undergoing dialysis three times a week while awaiting a second transplant.

His wife Nadene, who was also his manager, confirmed Lomu’s death, describing it as a “devastating loss”. The couple had two sons.

New Zealand prime minister John Key said the thoughts of “the entire country” were with Lomu’s family, stating: “He truly is and was a legend of the game.”