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Big Fella Still Inspires All Blacks - Nonu

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Big Fella Still Inspires All Blacks - Nonu

By Mark Geenty of NZPA

Marseille, Nov 24 NZPA - The All Blacks missed Jonah Lomu's comeback rugby match, but they won't miss The Big Fella when he receives the hero's welcome at their Marseille hotel this week.

Lomu has been almost omnipresent this tour, right from Tokyo when he got a huge roar from the National Stadium crowd before the Bledisloe Cup test in his new role as 2019 World Cup ambassador.

In Milan, top Serie A soccer players knew vaguely of Dan Carter, but the one word that stood out amid their native tongue was "Lomu".

And, just as the All Blacks touched down here on Sunday, 34-year-old Lomu was making another rugby comeback for French third division club Marseille-Vitrolles as they beat Montmelian 63-18.

His new home in Marseille is just minutes from the All Blacks' hotel, and his former Hurricanes teammate Ma'a Nonu said they were eagerly awaiting a visit from their old mate ahead of their test against France.

"He's still got that respect. The boys hold him in high regard. He's always going to be a legend in every kid's eyes," Nonu said.

New All Blacks winger Zac Guildford was just six when Lomu rampaged his way around South Africa in 1995 at the peak of his powers, spurring his side to the World Cup final and becoming a world rugby megastar.

Nonu and Lomu's paths didn't quite cross in the All Blacks jersey; Lomu's 63-test, 37-try career ended against Wales in 2002 and Nonu's began against England in Wellington several months later.

But Nonu said Lomu had one of the biggest impacts on his formative rugby years in Wellington.

"Jonah's one of those big fellas that looks after the young guys. He used to live in Maupuia (in Wellington), the big orange house on the hill. That was Jonah's castle.

"I just lived down the road in Miramar and he used to pick me up for training. I was pretty lucky...He had a few nice cars too.

"He's a generous guy, a big giant that's always friendly. Everyone loves him."

The All Blacks didn't arrive in France in time for Lomu's comeback match but the highlights were all over the French television news.

Lomu, wearing a sky blue strip complete with matching boots, and playing at centre, bumped off a few unsuspecting Montmelians but couldn't cross the chalk for a try.

He admitted later the language barrier made it frustrating and he "wasn't expecting a miracle". Several thousand spectators and almost 100 media turned up anyway, just because he was there.

Nonu said he was just rapt to see Lomu back on the field, after his much-publicised health dramas before and after his kidney transplant.

"It's great. We saw when he got sick that was a shame because we were having a good season for the Hurricanes in 2003... now him and his bodybuilding, it's just great to see."


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