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Jonah Tali Lomu, MNZM (born 12 May 1975) is a New Zealand rugby union footballer. He had sixty-three caps as an All Black after debuting in 1994. He is generally regarded as the first true global superstar of rugby union. One of the sport's most intimidating players on the field, he has had a huge impact on the game. He was inducted to the International Rugby Hall of Fame on 9 October 2007.

Lomu burst onto the international rugby scene during the 1994 Hong Kong Sevens tournament and was widely acknowledged to be the top player at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa even though New Zealand lost the championship game to the host Springboks. At one time Lomu was considered 'rugby union's biggest drawcard', swelling attendances at any match where he appeared. He has played for several provincial teams, in the Super Rugby and NPC competitions. These included the Auckland Blues, Waikato Chiefs and Wellington Hurricanes, and Counties Manukau, Wellington Lions and later North Harbour. He made a comeback after undergoing a kidney transplant in 2004. In 1996 he married South African Tanya Rutter; they officially divorced in 2000. He married Fiona Taylor in 2003 and divorced her in 2008. He is officially the Rugby World Cup all-time top try scorer with 15 tries.

He is the cousin of National Rugby League footballers Andrew Lomu and John Tamanika.

Early career

Lomu represented New Zealand in the national under-19 side in 1993, as well as the under-21 side the following year. He first came to international attention at the 1994 Hong Kong Sevens tournament, as part of a fearsome team including Eric Rush and Christian Cullen.

At the age of 19 years and 45 days, Jonah Lomu became the youngest All Black test player as he debuted on the wing against France in 1994, breaking a record that had been held by Edgar Wrigley since 1905. The match was played at Lancaster Parkmarker in Christchurchmarker, and the All Blacks lost 22–8. Lomu's performance was middling, however he performed well enough to ensure his selection the following week. The match was the second against France and played at Eden Parkmarker in Auckland; France won again, 23–20.

1995 World Cup

Despite having just two All Black caps, Lomu was included in the squad for the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. Jonah stunned international rugby audiences (and unsuspecting players) at the 1995 World Cup, when he scored seven tries in five matches, including four in the semi-final against England. In his first ever World Cup match, against Ireland in Johannesburgmarker, he scored two tries in the 43–19 win. In the following match—against Wales—Lomu was replaced during the game, and did not score any tries in the 34–9 victory. He was rested for the final pool match against Japan. In the All Blacks' quarter final, Jonah scored a try in the 48–30 win over Scotland at Loftus Versfeldmarker. He shocked the 51,000 that packed into Newlandsmarker in Cape Townmarker to see the semi-final against England, as he notched up four tries in the 45–29 defeat of the English, including a try in which he ran straight through England fullback Mike Catt.

His style of play at times defied description; one New Zealand commentator, Keith Quinn, was famously reduced to gasps as Lomu devastated England's backline. After the game, Will Carling said: "He is a freak and the sooner he goes away the better". Lomu's attacking style was one of pure power; he had a tendency to run straight into or over any defender who had the misfortune to get in his way.

Following the win over England, the All Blacks entered what would become an epic World Cup final match at Ellis Park against South Africa (the Springboks), but despite his efforts, Lomu could not score a try against the South African side. During this game he was famously tackled near the try-line by Joost van der Westhuizen. The game went to the hosts, who scored a drop-goal in extra time to defeat the All Blacks 15–12.

1996–1998

In the first match after the World Cup loss to South Africa, the All Blacks took on Australia at home at Eden Park. Lomu scored New Zealand's only try in the match, which they won 28–16. In the return match, held at the Sydney Football Stadiummarker to decide the Bledisloe Cup, the All Blacks won 34–23 despite trailing at half-time, with Lomu scoring a try. Lomu's scoring for New Zealand continued later that year when he scored two tries in the All Blacks victory over Italy in Bolognamarker. Lomu also played against the French Barbarians in November in Toulonmarker, as well as two matches against French selections. Lomu played in the first Test against France in Toulousemarker, which was won through penalty goals. In a subsequent match against a French selection, Lomu scored two tries. He scored a try in the second and final test against France in Parismarker.

Prior to the start of the first Tri Nations Series, Lomu played for the All Blacks in matches against Samoa and Scotland, scoring in the Scottish match. The All Blacks also hosted Australia in Wellingtonmarker; defeating the Wallabies 43–6, with Lomu getting three of the tries. The 1996 Tri Nations was the first of its kind, and launched with the advent of professionalism in rugby. A close victory over South Africa in Christchurch was followed by a 32–25 win over the Wallabies, in which Lomu scored. The wins ensured the All Blacks became the first ever Tri Nations champions. Lomu played three other matches for the All Blacks following the Tri Nations that year; against Currie Cup sides in South Africa: Eastern Province, Western Transvaal and Griqualand West.

At the end of 1996, he was diagnosed with a rare and serious kidney disorder, which saw him take time off from the sport. As such he did not play in the 1997 Tri Nations Series, but was included in the All Blacks tour of the northern hemisphere at the end of the year. Lomu played in the two warm up matches, scoring tries against Wales 'A' and Emerging England. He played the first test against England at Old Traffordmarker, as well as the test against Wales at Wembley Stadiummarker, and the second match against England— he did not score in any of the three games.

At the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpurmarker, he won a gold medal representing New Zealand in the Sevens Rugby event. The English rugby team came to New Zealand the following year for a two test series. Lomu played in both of the matches, scoring in the first, which was a 64–22 win in Dunedinmarker, but not in the second test won 40–10 by the All Blacks. The 1998 Tri Nations Series contributed to one of the All Blacks worst ever seasons, as they lost all four games and finished at the bottom of the table.

1999 and the World Cup

Lomu's 1999 international season kicked off with a warm-up match against New Zealand A, which was followed by a game against Samoa in which Lomu scored one of the All Blacks' nine tries. Lomu came on late in the first game of the 1999 Tri Nations Series, which was a 28–0 win over South Africa, and at one point took eight men to bring him down. He again started from the bench in the subsequent game against Australia which the All Blacks also won. Lomu started from the bench in the following match against the Springboks in Pretoriamarker, though he came in early in the 34–18 win. He was introduced at near half-time in the final Tri Nations game against Australia in Sydney, though the game was characterised by New Zealand errors, and Australia won the rainy affair, in front of 107,042 supporters. Despite the loss, the All Blacks were crowned Tri Nations champions.

He scored eight tries at the 1999 World Cup. In New Zealand's first pool match of the tournament against Tonga he scored two tries, scoring again in one of his finest matches in pool play against England. Lomu scored his second double of the tournament in the third and final pool match against Italy. The All Blacks, finishing atop of their pool, proceeded to the quarter-finals, where they defeated Scotland, where Lomu scored one of New Zealand's four tries. Lomu scored twice in the semi-final match against France, though it was not enough to see them through to the final, as France went onto win 43–31. Through his career, Lomu has scored eight tries against England — more than any other All Black. Lomu also holds an unbeaten record of 15 tries in World Cup tournaments. Following the World Cup, there was speculation that Lomu would be moving to play American Football in the National Football League, or continue to play rugby in the English Premiership. None of the speculation materialised and Lomu stayed in New Zealand.

2000–2003

After playing in the 100+ victory over Tonga, Lomu and Tana Umaga scored five tries between them in the subsequent match against Scotland. One of Lomu's tries was a characteristic bulldozing effort down the wing, leaving Scottish defenders in his wake. In the opening match of the 2000 Tri Nations Series, the All Blacks raced out to a 21 to nil lead, which had the potential to be 28, had George Gregan not stopped Lomu from scoring one of his own. Australia amazingly fought back, and with minutes remaining, both sides had scored five tries each. The world record rugby crowd of 109,874 was treated to the highest scoring match ever between the two sides. With just minutes remaining, the Wallabies led 35 to 34; until Lomu "brushed past a desperate Stephen Larkham to tip-toe down the line and score the winning try".

The match was followed by a victory over South Africa, and then a re-match of the thrilling Bledisloe Cup game, which Australia won by just a single point, 24 to 23. A barn-storming Lomu was stopped short of the line early in the second half in the final match against South Africa. The Springboks eventually won, 46 to 40. The All Blacks finished second on the table, with Australia winning the Tri Nations. Lomu played in one other test that year; against France at Stade de Francemarker in November, which the All Blacks won 39 to 26.

Lomu also led the New Zealand Sevens team to victory at the 2001 Sevens World Cup, filling in for Rush, who suffered a broken leg during the competition. In the lead up to the 2001 Tri Nations Series, the All Blacks played Argentina and France at home, Lomu scoring a try in the French match. Despite causing havoc for the Springboks, no tries were scored in the opening match of the Tri Nations, which was won on penalty goals by the All Blacks. Lomu played his 50th test for the All Blacks at the Carisbrook 'House of Pain', scoring a try in the second minute of play. The Wallabies spoiled the party however, winning 23 to 15. This was followed by a win over South Africa, and loss to the Wallabies at Stadium Australiamarker.

At the end of the year, the All Blacks played Ireland at Lansdowne Roadmarker in Dublinmarker. Lomu was a central figure in the 40 to 29 win, setting up Aaron Mauger for his debut try, and taking an inside pass to blast through for one of his own. The All Blacks end of season tour continued at Murrayfieldmarker in Edinburghmarker, where they defeated Scotland 37 to six, with Lomu contributing one try. In the final match of the tour, the All Blacks played Argentina at the River Plate Stadiummarker. Lomu put the All Blacks in front after Argentina took an early lead, brushing off four defenders to score. In the end, New Zealand won the match by a score of 24 to 20.

In his first test of 2002, he came off the bench in the second half to score a try in a match against Italy. He was again injected into play from the bench in the first of a two test series against Ireland in New Zealand; setting up the All Blacks second try coming on in the last fifteen minutes of play. Lomu was back at his usual starting position for the second test against the Irish, which New Zealand won 40 points to eight. Lomu did not score in the subsequent match against Fiji; though he did however make a trademark run down the wing, setting up Christian Cullen's third try in the match. Lomu came off the bench in the All Blacks first game of the 2002 Tri Nations Series against South Africa, though he did not play in the rest of the tournament.

He was, however, back in his starting position on the wing for a game against England in November. Lomu ended up scoring a double, though it was not enough to secure a New Zealand victory, with England winning 31 to 28. The subsequent match against France resulted in a draw, the first between the two nations in 96 years. The last match of the end of season tour was against Wales, which the All Blacks won 43 to 17.

Personal life

Lomu has had a turbulent rollercoaster of a personal life. He has been married and divorced twice and is now living with his third partner, who was herself married when she met Jonah.

In 1996, shortly after the 1995 Rugby World Cup in which he made such a big impact, Lomu married South African Tanya Rutter and she moved to live in New Zealand. Four years later in 2000, they were divorced. Then in August 2003, Jonah married his second wife Fiona (who also became his personal manager with a firm hand on all his finances) in a secret ceremony on Waiheke Island. A week later they held a party on the island for approximately 160 guests

In December 2007, it was reported that Lomu and his second wife Fiona were taking timeout from one another.

Then in February 2008, it was reported Lomu and his wife Fiona were divorcing. The reason for the divorce was another woman. Nadene Quirk was married to fringe Auckland Blues rugby player Jarek Goebel when she met Jonah in late 2007. Goebel was understandably devastated by what happened. In early 2008, Lomu moved out of his Auckland property and down to Wellingtonmarker to live with Quirk.

Health issues

At the end of 1995 Lomu was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome, a serious kidney disorder. His rugby union career went on hold whilst the disorder was treated. In May 2003, the NZRFU announced that Lomu had been put on dialysis three times a week due to deterioration in his kidney function. Side effects of Lomu's dialysis treatment led to severe nerve damage in his feet and legs; his doctors warned him that he faced life in a wheelchair if a kidney transplant was not performed soon.

Late in March 2004, Lomu was quoted by a Hong Kongmarker newspaper to the effect that a suitable live kidney donor had been found, and that he would have transplant surgery sometime during 2004. However, the former All Blacks team physician who was overseeing Lomu's treatment quickly denied the report. Nonetheless, at the end of July 2004 it was reported that Lomu had indeed undergone a kidney transplant on Tuesday, 28 July, in Aucklandmarker, New Zealand. The kidney was in fact donated by Wellingtonmarker radio presenter Grant Kereama. Lomu soon announced his intention to train for his rugby union renaissance in June 2005.

Comeback quest

In January 2005, Jonah Lomu announced his intention to lead a team against Martin Johnson's invitational XV on 4 June 2005, at Twickenhammarker. He scored a try in the first half of the Johnson testimonial, but injured his shoulder in the process and did not return for the second half, dampening an otherwise encouraging first appearance. As it turned out, his injury was more serious than originally thought; he underwent surgery on the shoulder, causing him to miss the 2005 NPC season.

Before returning to professional rugby, he needed special clearance from the World Anti-Doping Agency, as one of the anti-rejection drugs he must take is on the WADA list of banned substances. On 8 April 2005, he signed a two-year contract to play for the New Zealand first division provincial team North Harbour in the NPC.

On 9 August 2005, he joined North Harbour, but the shoulder injury he had picked up in the Martin Johnson testimonial game ruled him out for the season, so he worked with the team in a coaching capacity. North Harbour agreed to allow him to play overseas during the NPC offseason, so Lomu signed with the Cardiff Blues of the Celtic League and began playing in Walesmarker in December that year, though he would then return to North Harbour for the 2006 NPC season. Lomu made his first appearance in a competitive match since his transplant on 10 December, in Cardiff's away Heineken Cup fixture against Italian club Calvisano. He started the match and played 60 minutes, although he did not score, making a key line break leading to Cardiff's first try in their 25-10 win.

One week later, he made his home debut for Cardiff at Cardiff Arms Parkmarker and played for the whole match. Again, he did not get onto the scoresheet but his presence was enough to create space for other players to score in a 43-16 win over Calvisano. In front of a record home crowd, Lomu scored his first try for Cardiff on 27 December 2005, with a man-of-the-match performance during a Celtic League 41-23 win against the Newport Gwent Dragons. In early 2006, he was sidelined while he concentrated on gaining speed and strength, stating that "I have now lost between 10 and 11 kilos". He got his first start since January against Border Reivers on Saturday, 15 April, but broke his ankle as a result of a cover tackle on him four minutes from time. He was denied a try, but managed to get the ball away for Mark Lewis to score the Blues sixth try in their 46-11 win. He was estimated to be out for six weeks, as reported by his manager and wife, Fiona Lomu, meaning the end of his Celtic League season.

After three seasons of absence from rugby in New Zealand, Lomu played for Massey against Marist in the North Harbour club competition. Lomu was on for 30 minutes, making a blocking run before he twisted his right ankle and was subsequently replaced. Lomu said that it was "a small step" in his comeback. Jonah's aim was to return to the National Provincial Championship and reclaim his All Blacks jersey for the 2007 World Cup. Lomu ended up playing for North Harbour in round four of the National Provincial Championship, in a match against Wellington, playing in the last 26 minutes of the game. Harbour won the match 31-16. Lomu said after the match "For me it's a dream come true...I've always said this is my goal - to come back and play in New Zealand."

However, it became apparent in early 2007 that Jonah was not going to make the Rugby World Cup after not being signed with a New Zealand Super 14 Team, therefore ruling him out for the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France. Before Lomu failed to be signed by any franchise, Lomu was demoted to the North Harbour 2nd XV. Lomu stated he was disappointed by his failure in not getting a Super 14 contract, but that he had not failed himself. It was subsequently speculated that Lomu may play in Australia in 2007 for one of the new national competition clubs.

On 16 October 2006, it was reported that Lomu was close to switching codes and signing for the Gold Coast Titans, a new Queenslandmarker franchise in the National Rugby League competition. He was offered a relatively small contract of a hundred thousand dollars. However, the deal did not materialise as Lomu was unable to reconcile his contracts based on him playing rugby union to playing in the NRL.

On 5 November 2006, the BBC reported that Lomu was considering a return to Welsh rugby. He last played rugby in Hong Kong to take part in the Tens competition.

On 9 April 2007, Lomu appeared on New Zealand's version of This Is Your Life, in which he was reunited with his estranged half brother Noah Lomu.

Jonah Lomu was appointed as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday Honours list on 4 June 2007.

Retirement

Jonah retired from rugby in 2007, but was persuaded to play in the Help For Heroes charity match at Twickenhammarker a year later, although had to withdraw after injuring his ankle in training.

However, in June 2009, the BBC claimed he was close to joining French third division club Marseille Vitrolles and is expected to start in the first match of the new season.

In September 2009, Lomu took part in a amateur bodybuilding contest in Wellington. He revealed that he has lost weight since preparing in March and now weighs 115kg. His weight loss was due to intensive gym work and a diet without carbohydrates. He claims he hasn't weighed this little since he left school at 19. He finished second in two categories, including the men’s open over-90kg, and the mixed pairs. That meant he's done enough to qualify for next month’s competition. His partner Tracy suffered from breast cancer but also recovered like Lomu did. He is also preparing for his comeback to rugby. He will join Marseille Vitrolles in November.Lomu made his debut against Montmelian, they won 64-13 at home. Lomu started the match at centre and was nervous but enjoyed the occasion very much.

Further reading

  • Phil Shirley "Blood & Thunder The unofficial biography of Jonah Lomu" Harper Collins Publishers London ISBN 0-00-274028-1
  • Lomu, Jonah, (2004). Jonah Lomu Autobiography, Headline Book Pub Ltd, (ISBN 0-7553-1263-5)


References

  1. Queensland rugby league article
  2. - New Zealand Herald Article on Jonah's second wedding
  3. - New Zealand Herald Article on Jonah taking time out from his wife
  4. - Rugbyheaven article on Jared Goebal losing his wife to Jonah


External links




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