Jonah Lomu, the man who took rugby to new level, passes away

Rugby world pays rich tribute to 40-year-old New Zealand legend after his sudden death due to nephrotic syndrome, a rare kidney condition

Auckland: New Zealand giant Jonah Lomu revolutionised rugby with his steamroller runs, the sport’s leaders and legends said yesterday in reaction to his sudden death at the age of 40. The All Black wing was remembered for feats such as his four tries against England in the 1995 World Cup semi-final and the way that he barged aside opposing defenders. World Rugby president Bernard Lapasset and former England manager Clive Woodward both said that Lomu, who was forced out of the game by a chronic kidney disease, had changed the face of the sport.

Jonah Lomu
Pic/Getty Images

“He really did take rugby to a whole new level. He was just one of the all-time great rugby players, there is absolutely no doubt about that,” Woodward said on BBC Radio. “He was ahead of his time,” Lapasset told AFP. “Jonah Lomu gave an incredible new dimension to the game.”

At 1.96 metre (six foot five inches) and 120 kilograms (265 pounds), rugby had never seen a wing like Lomu when he made his first appearance at the Hong Kong Sevens in 1994. He was soon called up by the full All Blacks side.“Wingers were normally small, nimble and agile and suddenly you had this huge guy and he was not big and slow, he was big and fast. He was amazing,” said Woodward. At his peak, Lomu could run 100 metres in 10.8 seconds. His power terrorised opposing defenders. “We used to give him a huge amount of attention. ‘Okay, if we can nullify him we can nullify the All Blacks,’” said Woodward. Lomu’s former opponents too paid tribute to the New Zealander’s prowess as well as his dignity off the field as he battled a kidney disease which forced him to have one transplant.

Lomu made his first international impression at the World Cup in 1995 when he scored 15 tries — which remains a record — including the four against England. Will Carling, the England captain in that thumping 29-45 defeat, said Lomu had been “unstoppable”.

Mike Catt, who was famously trampled by Lomu as he scored the first try in the game, said: “Lomu put me on the map. Everybody knew who Mike Catt was. All for the wrong reasons of course! I’m massively sad but the legacy he’s left is incredible.”

Lomu's career in numbers

63 No of test appearances Lomu made

37 No of tries (scored by grounding the ball in the opposition’s in-goal area) the wing racked up

44 No of tests New Zealand won with Lomu in the side

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