- Category : Rugby Player
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 2/5 - Hermit / Heretic
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Explanation 2
Jonah Tali Lomu, MNZM (born 12 May 1975) is a former 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 domestic teams, in the Super Rugby, NPC and later the Magners League competitions. These included the Auckland Blues, Chiefs and Hurricanes, and Counties Manukau, Wellington and later North Harbour and Cardiff Blues. He made a comeback after undergoing a kidney transplant in 2004.
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 team including Eric Rush.
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 over the top of 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 'Maori sidestep'). However most of his famous tries were ignited by electric pace (he recorded a time of 10.89 seconds in the 100 meters) 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 the South African rugby team in 1995 World Cup, Lomu is portrayed by Isaac Feau'nati and is referred to in reverent tones.
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 Stadium 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 Bologna. Lomu also played against the French Barbarians in November in Toulon, as well as two matches against French selections. Lomu played in the first Test against France in Toulouse, 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 Paris.
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 Wellington; 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.
Gold 1998 Kuala Lumpur Rugby 7's
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 Trafford, as well as the test against Wales at Wembley Stadium, and the second match against England— he did not score in any of the three games.
At the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, 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 Dunedin, but not in the second test won 40–10 by the All Blacks.
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 Pretoria, 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 at the top 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 on to 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.
After playing 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 France 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 Australia.
At the end of the year, the All Blacks played Ireland at Lansdowne Road in Dublin. 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 Murrayfield in Edinburgh, 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 Stadium. 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.