Yesterday news emerged that - for the second time in 2015 - the rugby world would have to say goodbye to one of it’s true greats. In the UK, we woke up to the news that All Blacks legend, and the game’s very first global superstar, Jonah Lomu had passed away at only 40 years of age, succumbing to the kidney problems that had dogged him since 1996. His wife Nadene announced his passing: "It is with great sadness that I must announce my dear husband Jonah Lomu died last night. As you can imagine this is a devastating loss for our family." She asked for privacy for her family, especially her young children, during this "traumatic time".
Jonah started life of as an open side but then switched to left wing, describing it as "best move he could have made”. At the age of just 19 years and 45 days, Lomu became the youngest All Black Test player as he debuted on the wing against France in 1994. However it was in 1995 when Jonah exploded on to the scene at the Rugby World Cup in South Africa, scoring 7 tries in five matches including the infamous Mike Catt moment below.
The reason for Jonah’s rise to stardom was the man’s physical size and speed, weighing in at 120kgs and 1.96m tall which made him a devastating winger, combined with the fact that he was well ahead of his time in conditioning. He was a threat wherever and whenever he touched the ball which made matches very entertaining to watch.
Jonah seemed to be cut out for the biggest of stages and in RWC 1999 he went on to score another 8 tries, making him the all-time record scorer at the event with 15, a record only recently matched by South Africa’s Bryan Habana.
In domestic rugby, Lomu played for several teams and was always a massive crowd puller. In Super Rugby he starred for Auckland Blues, Chiefs and Hurricanes. In NPC - Counties Manukau, Wellington and later North Harbour and the giant winger also featured for in the Magners League for Cardiff Blues. He would retire in 2007, before making one last comeback in 2009 for French Fédérale 1 team Marseille Vitrolles.
After news of his death, tributes came in from teammates, rivals and coaches, as well as many from outside the rugby community.
Rest easy Jonah.