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How Jonah Lomu revolutionised a sport.

Posted Jan 19, 2011 by Shaun Edwards

Lomu revolutionized Rugby

Rugby Union has never been the most glamorous of sports, and for those of us who love the game that’s the way we like it.  There were no George Bests or David Gowers, winnings matches and then heading out for a night on the town in the company of all the ladies.  No, no: Rugby was for real men.  The closest it came to a pretty boy was probably Jean Pierre Rives, and he was as hard as a coffin nail.  Superstars were for those other sports, not rugby. 

And then a 6ft 5, 18st New Zealander appeared on the scene, and everything changed.

It seems remarkable given the one man marketing machine he eventually became, but when the 1995 Rugby World cup swung around, Jonah Lomu was just a twenty year old with two caps to his name that no one had really heard of.  Not one team was prepared for what was to come.  Having scored tries in both his debut World Cup match against Ireland as well as the quarter final against Scotland (both games dominated by the All Blacks), Lomu then went onto a career defining semi-final performance against an England side that were expecting to win.  Scoring four tries in a 45-29 defeat, Lomu absolutely crushed the favoured English backline.  Following the defeat, a stunned Will Carling could only summon up the back-handed compliment ‘He is a freak and the sooner he goes away the better.’

Huge,powerful men were rugby’s bread-and-butter and common enough within the sport.  Lomu, though, was a breed above.  Running his huge frame (which was around 250 pounds of muscle) at terrifying speeds that were more suited to an Olympic sprinter than a rugby winger, he could be virtually unstoppable when on his top form.  Indeed, such was his power that several of his most famous tries consisted of his simply running through and flattening members of the opposing defence.

All the attacking prowess in the world, though, could do nothing for Lomu in the months following the 1995 World Cup when he diagnosed with nephritic syndrome, a disorder which causes the kidneys to leak excessive amounts of protein from blood into the urine, leading to his spending days between cup matches in bed simply recovering.  As Lomu himself states ‘My recovery period was a lot longer than the other players. They'd be ok after an hour - I'd have to stay in bed till the next session.’

By May 2003, Lomu had been placed on dialysis three times a week, and was given the warning that he could spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair if he did not receive a transplant soon, let alone play his beloved sport again.  Fortunately the transplant was complete in July 2004, and Lomu was able to begin rehabilitation and training to return to the game.

Although he never played for his country again after 2002, Lomu remains one of the most famous names to have ever played Rugby, and is still considered a household name the world over. 

 

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