Memorial service for rugby legend held at iconic New Zealand ground
Auckland: A public memorial service to remember New Zealand rugby great Jonah Lomu took place at Eden Park stadium in Auckland yesterday.
I'm watching you, dad: The late New Zealand All Blacks rugby legend Jonah Lomu's son Dhyreille follows the hearse carrying the casket of his father at Eden Park in Auckland yesterday. PIC/AFP. Inset: Rugby legend Jonah Lomu
World Rugby chairman Bernard Lapasset led the tributes to the former All Blacks winger, who died at the age of 40 earlier this month.
Pupils of Lomu's former school, Favona Primary in South Auckland, performed a song they had written in tribute, while there were video messages from Elton John and the Queen amongst others. Thousands of mourners were in attendance as the memorial opened with a traditional Maori haka and powhiri welcome ritual.
Lomu's coffin was then carried into the stadium by pallbearers, including former All Blacks Michael Jones, Frank Bunce, Joeli Vidiri and Jerome Kaino.
Legend Jonah Lomu's wife Nadene (above), wearing a woven skirt - a traditional Tongan symbol of respect and mourning - was accompanied by her two sons Brayley (6) and Dhyreille (5)
Lomu's wife Nadene followed, wearing a woven skirt — a traditional Tongan symbol of respect and mourning —accompanied by her two sons Brayley, 6 and Dhyreille, 5.
Lapasset claimed Lomu's contribution to rugby "cannot be overstated", describing him as, "a giant of a man (who) leaves a giant space in world rugby. He will forever be a big part of rugby's story."
Former All Blacks Dalls Seymour (left) and Michael Jones perform a hongi after the memorial service of late All Blacks rugby legend Jonah Lomu at Eden Park in Auckland yesterday. Pic/AFP
New Zealand's prime minister John Key had recorded a video tribute in Paris, where he is attending the world climate conference, saying: "He proved that you can come from anywhere in New Zealand in any background and make it to the top."
Lomu battled the debilitating kidney illness nephrotic syndrome for almost 20 years which eventually forced his retirement and is thought to have contributed to his death.
He played 63 games for NZ and scored 37 tries, a record 15 of those coming at Rugby World Cups. A private family burial service will be held here today.
The number of victories Jonah Lomu was part of, in six Tests at Eden Park in Auckland. The stadium has also hosted cricket matches from 1930