Saturday, December 3, 2011

Jonah Lomu

Jonah Tali Lomu, MNZM (born 12 May 1975) is a New Zealand rugby union player. 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. He has had a huge impact on the game. He was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame on 9 October 2007, and the IRB Hall of Fame on 24 October 2011.

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 is officially the Rugby World Cup all-time top try scorer with 15 tries.

He has played for several provincial teams, in the Super Rugby and NPC competitions. These included the Blues, Chiefs and Hurricanes, and Counties Manukau, Wellington and later North Harbour. He made a comeback after undergoing a kidney transplant in 2004.

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, 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 Park in Christchurch, 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 Park 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. Lomu 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 Johannesburg, 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, Lomu scored a try in the 48–30 win over Scotland at Loftus Versfeld. He shocked the 51,000 that packed into Newlands in Cape Town 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 prowess can be attributed in part to pure power; when near the tryline he often ran his 120 kg frame straight into or over any defenders who had the misfortune to get in his way (a move informally known as the 'Tongan sidestep'). However most of his famous tries were ignited by electric pace (as a schoolboy he ran the 100m in 10.8s) as he stepped "in-and-out" on his opposites and ran around them, then used his powerful fends on the cover defence.

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. Lomu had scored tries against every major test playing nation in World Rugby except South Africa.

In interviews after 2003, Lomu revealed that he was already suffering from the effects of nephrotic syndrome during the 1995 World Cup. As a consequence of this serious and chronic kidney illness he was completely drained and often bedridden for entire days in between Cup games. It was agreed with the All Blacks doctor John Mayhew that his illness, at that time undiagnosed, would be kept secret and it stayed that way for most of his career.

In a Clint Eastwood movie Invictus (2009), which is about Nelson Mandela and South African rugby team in 1995 World Cup, Lomu is portrayed by Isaac Feau'nati and is referred to in reverent tones.

Personal life
Lomu is of Tongan descent. He has been married and divorced twice and is now living with his third partner, who was herself married when she met Lomu.

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

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, Lomu 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 Lomu in late 2007. Goebel was devastated by what happened. In early 2008, Lomu moved out of his Auckland property and down to Wellington to live with Quirk.

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