Rugby World Cup 2011

Lomu's visit wows Wallabies

2011-10-19 07:31
Jonah Lomu (AFP)

Auckland - New Zealand great Jonah Lomu stunned Australia's players by dropping in on a training session here on Wednesday ahead of their Rugby World Cup third place playoff match against Wales.

Lomu, 36, who was recently discharged from hospital after being admitted with kidney failure, mingled with the players and lifted the spirits of a Wallaby camp all but inconsolable after their semi-final defeat by the All Blacks last weekend.

"Unbelievable. It was pretty crazy to have him there. He made the players train better," wide-eyed Wallaby fullback Kurtley Beale said.

Wallaby flyer Digby Ioane was thrilled Lomu knew who he was when he introduced himself to the former All Black wing, regarded as rugby union's first global superstar.

"Saw Jonah at training, just went up to him and said 'Hi Jonah' and he said 'What's up Diggers?'and I went 'Sweet'," he laughed to reporters.

"I ran off to the field and told (team-mates) James (O'Connor) and Kurtley, Jonah's just said my name, and they said 'No way'."

The modern-day Wallabies were in thrall of Lomu, who rose to prominence with his devastating performances at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa and also played a major part in the All Blacks' 1999 campaign.

He still holds the record for most tries at the World Cup, with 15 in total.

"He's a well-respected man in the game and one of the legends," Beale said of Lomu. "Everyone in rugby tries to emulate Jonah Lomu and the way he plays.

"It was unbelievable to have him there, I'm pretty thrilled. I think we are catching up with him tomorrow, which will be good."

Ioane added: "He's everyone's hero. I don't think there'll be another Jonah. He's done everything in the past and he's the man.

"You don't see blokes his (then) age running over wingers or forwards, that's something I can't do. I'll give it to Jonah, he's the man."

The Wallabies' Kiwi coach Robbie Deans said he phoned Lomu about catching up with him and the wing legend inquired about the Wallabies' training.

"He's met a couple of our lads before in Tokyo and he was keen to pursue those relationships, he's a good man, has a lot to give," Deans said.

Veteran Australia lock Nathan Sharpe, set to play his 100th Test in Friday's match against Wales here at Eden Park, quipped of the hulking Lomu: "We thought he was a security guard for a second there."

Lomu was diagnosed with the rare kidney disorder nephrotic syndrome in 1995 and underwent a transplant in 2004, receiving a donated organ.

He has been based in France in recent times but returned to New Zealand for the World Cup, taking part in the opening ceremony, before he was rushed to hospital following his latest health setback.


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