Can you believe it’s been one year since the passing of the great Jonah Lomu? As a huge fan of his, I still find it hard to believe that he is gone.
This time of year will always be a poignant time we remember Jonah for his contribution (on and off the field) to sevens and fifteens rugby, especially with the Emirates Airlines Dubai Rugby 7s just around the corner.
The All Black legend died on November the 18th last year (2015) due to his long suffering kidney complications that had plagued him for more than 20 years.
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He was 40.
It was back in 1994 when Jonah Lomu burst onto the international rugby stage, during the Hong Kong Sevens tournament. He made his first New Zealand All Blacks test debut as a young 19 year old, making him the youngest ever player at the time to be capped in the All Blacks squad.
The 1995 Rugby World Cup held in South Africa was the year that really catapulted Lomu into rugby stardom, as he ran a mock on the field, showing his awesome power, speed and capabilities. With just 2 international caps to his name, he was included in the World Cup squad who just lost out to South Africa as they kicked a drop goal in the dying minutes of extra time.
Before Jonah came along, wingers were generally fast and light on their feet. He was the first truly massive wing to show both the strength of a forward and speed of a back, something that now is a trend with many wingers such as the current the current All Black No.11 – Julian Savea. It was his unique combination of power, speed and size which made him so devastating on the rugby field. Weighing 120KG and standing at 1.96 metres tall he could run the 100 metres in 10.8 seconds making him almost impossible to tackle.
After his professional rugby career, Jonah helped campaign and was a huge factor in the winning bid to have Sevens Rugby included into the Olympic Games and make it’s debut at Rio de Janeiro.
UAE Rugby, Secretary General Qais Al Dhalai reflects on the his time with Lomu and the legacy that he has left behind;
“The Sevens debut at this years Olympic Games in Brazil is his biggest achievement and legacy, that rugby is now watched by an audience of millions worldwide because of him.”
“Getting sevens into the Olympics had helped spread the game beyond the founding nations and into new markets like the UAE” added Al Dhalai.
Al Dhalai told us that another of Lomu’s legacy projects had been put on hold due to his death.
“I have to reaveal that we had reached the end stages of forming the Jonah Lomu Academy in Dubai, london and Tokyo, and that was a big plan reaching a nice end but it got put on hold and and we have to respect that.”
He went on to say;
“We are in discussions and I cannot comment further but I ant to be honest, this was an upcoming project we had worked on together. Time will tell if this continues so watch this space.”
Jonah was in Dubai with Al Dhalai this time last year on one of his many stopovers in the city on his way back from the 2015 Rugby World Cup held in England to his home in Auckland, New Zealand.