Rugby

Lomu 'stronger than ever'

2009-10-28 12:20
Look who's back! (File)

Tokyo - Former New Zealand international Jonah Lomu, once the most feared man in world rugby, says he is in the best shape ever before his long-awaited comeback.

The 34-year-old, who played 63 Tests for the All Blacks between 1994 and 2002 before his career was cut short by kidney disease, is set to return next month for French amateur side Marseille-Vitrolles.

"I'm stronger than I've ever been," Lomu said on Wednesday after being unveiled by Japanese rugby officials as an ambassador for the 2019 World Cup.

"I'm running the 100 metres in 10.9, but I'm even more surprised by what I'm doing in weights. I can dead-lift 300kg with my eyes closed.

"I am beating my previous (best) by a country mile. I'm in the best physical condition ever.

"I genuinely want to earn my spot at Marseille, but I could play as early as November," added Lomu, who signed a three-year deal with the French club last month.

"It just depends how quickly I can click with the players."

A bulldozing winger, Lomu's colossal performances at the World Cup in 1995 took rugby to a new level, highlighted by his four tries against England in the semi-final.

"When I play at my peak I get into a different zone," said Lomu, who literally ran over England fullback Mike Catt for one of his scores in that match in Cape Town.

"I become a completely different person. I can't really explain it. I'm so focused on what I have to do, you could be talking to me but you'd have to slap me to get my attention.

"It's almost like you're running, but you're watching yourself while you're running -- like an outer body experience," continued Lomu, in Tokyo to watch Saturday's Bledisloe Cup.

"When you get to that sort of clarity in your mind and your mind is at peace and your soul is at peace with your body and all is in sync, it becomes a completely different experience.

"I'm a very spiritual person," said Lomu. "I have faith in what I can do. It's irrelevant what anyone else thinks or says.

"I do what I've got to do to get to where I need to get. You do see Mike Catt in front of you... but that's what rugby is all about. It's not tiddlywinks.

"If someone is in front of you and you have to go over the top of them that's the way the game goes."

Lomu, who has his beloved All Blacks jersey number 11 tattooed on his chest, had a kidney transplant in 2004 and his weight ballooned to 142 kilos while he was away from rugby.

"In 1999 I was 118 kilos. I'm 116 now," said the giant New Zealander, who attempted a comeback with Cardiff Blues and North Harbour before retiring from rugby in 2007.

"I've put in a lot of hard yards. But the proof is in the pudding when I actually play."

Lomu, who has flirted with bodybuilding on his return to fitness, has not ruled out playing for the All Blacks again in the future.

"That is still a dream," he insisted, having swapped his muscleman tanning lotion for a pinstripe suit. "You never lose the desire to play for your country.

"If they rang me up tomorrow and said we need a player, hey, I brought my boots with me!"

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