Jonah Lomu’s impact on the game of rugby is not one that can be overestimated.
His playing style revolutionised the game in a way that no one else had seen before – he redefined the wing position and gave every single backline in the world a headache.
After the his sensational performances at the 1995 World Cup, Lomu was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome, a rare kidney disease that had the potential to develop in to something life threatening, and unfortunately, was eventually the cause of his death.
His 37 tries in 63 international appearances may be impressive, but his record of scoring fifteen tries at World Cups, matched only by South Africa’s Brian Habana following this year’s tournament, is even more astounding when you realise he was only involved in two editions of the tournament.
The passing of New Zealand’s gentle giant sent shockwaves throughout the world of rugby after being announced in the early hours of Wednesday morning, following a lengthy battle with nephrotic syndrome.
After retiring in 2002 at the age of just 27, Lomu underwent a kidney transplant two years later.
The news broke just weeks after he toured England providing punditry for the Rugby World Cup, during which he saw his nation become the first to retain the Webb Ellis Cup, after they won the title in 2011.Embed from Getty Images
From a very early age Lomu was seen to be dominating sport, especially in his school achievements, which in 1989 saw him win ten of 14 events at his school sports day, including 100m, shotput and long jump.
Not only was he a sensational rugby player, but an all-round athlete, which some have described as the “decathlete that got away.” His sheer size was petrifying to any defence, most notably of the 1999 France side, which failed to bring Lomu down despite being surrounded by six players in blue.
The 1995 World Cup saw Jonah Lomu make his name on the international stage. All of a sudden this 20-year-old winger, who started his career in the forwards as an open-side flanker, was on the lips of every national team coach as the man to watch out for. And it was to stay that way for some years after.
Perhaps most famous of all was his performance against England in the semi-final of his first World Cup. Scoring four tries, Lomu single-handedly tore the English backs to shreds, sending his national team soaring in to the final against South Africa.Embed from Getty Images
With everything Jonah Lomu brought to the game, it’s incredibly surprising to learn that he never managed to get his hands on the World Cup as a player.
Being the leading try scorer in both tournaments he appeared in, his immense presence was sorely missed as Australia hosted the 2003 edition of the World Cup, which England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson won in emphatic and memorable fashion.
The passing of not only Lomu, but also of Jerry Collins, who tragically lost his life earlier this year in a road traffic collision, has undoubtedly shrouded a year of success for the All Blacks.
Tributes have taken place across New Zealand, and the World, including an awe-inspiring haka at his former school in Auckland, as well as his former club Cardiff Blues announcing they will pay tributes to Lomu before their Challenge Cup tie on Thursday.
It is without doubt that I can say he is the best player I have ever witnessed, and it’s a tough case to argue for anyone that disagrees. A brute on the field and a true gentleman off of it, he will be sorely missed by all in the world of rugby.