Rugby legend Jonah Lomu’s visit to the Australian squad has given the beaten semi-finalists perspective that there are things greater than a rugby tournament.
New Zealand’s leading rugby site Rugbyheaven described the visit as such:
Jonah Lomu, the ailing All Black rugby legend who knows all about World Cup heartbreak, has risen from his sick bed to give the Wallabies a pep-talk.
The Wallabies were inconsolable after their 20-6 semifinal drubbing at the hands of the All Blacks.
But the players, struggling to lift for Friday’s third place playoff with Wales, went into a Twitter frenzy after meeting the great man today.
Standout flanker David Pocock tweeted a photo of himself and winger James O’Connor with the big man.
“Great to meet the legendary #JonahLomu. What a good bloke too,” Pocock wrote.
Pocock said Digby Ioane was especially impressed: “So good seeing how excited @digbyioane was meeting Jonah Lomu! ‘He said my name!’”
Ioane replied: “Made my day.”
Quade Cooper – the flawed Kiwi-born first five-eighth cast as the villain of the tournament and booed with every touch of the ball – took more than most from meeting Lomu.
“Big thanks to jonah for giving his time & having a chat. Theres no better person to talk to about life, rugby & expectation,” Cooper tweeted.
Lomu’s first World Cup, in 1995, made him a star but he was part of an All Blacks team that failed to grab the trophy in the final despite being heavy favourites.
Again the All Blacks were favoured to take out the 1999 tournament but fell apart in the second half of their semifinal against France. Lomu was one of the only players to emerge with credit from that match.
A Wallabies spokesman said plans for Lomu to meet up with the team had been in the pipeline for some time.
He said Robbie Deans, who was Lomu’s last backs coach for the All Blacks, kept in regular contact with Lomu and had arranged for him to come and meet the team.
He has also played against more experienced team members Nathan Sharpe and Radike Samo.
Lomu spent the morning watching the Wallabies training and then spoke with a number of players afterwards. He will also have dinner with the team tomorrow night.
”Jonah has the experience of being there, he certainly understands the disappointment (of losing in a Rugby World Cup final playoff game) and where the guys are at.
”For the Quade Coopers and the James O’Connors of the team, having the chance to chew the fat with Jonah Lomu is an amazing experience.
”[Lomu] has never lost his affinity for the team experience and he really wanted to watch the training. He was a really positive influence on the team which is amazing given what he has been through.”
The spokesman was at pains to point out that Lomu had not visited the Wallabies team in lieu of the All Blacks and said Lomu kept in regular contact with many in the All Blacks team.
It’s been nearly four weeks since Lomu was rushed to hospital for kidney failure. He told the latest edition of the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly he still wasn’t sure “how this is going to end”.
Moments after he was released from hospital 10 days ago, he was readmitted with a fever.
He was administered “a huge concoction of drugs” to stop his body rejecting the transplanted kidney he received from ZM radio announcer Grant Kereama in 2004.
The malfunctioning transplant “had a huge knock on effect on the rest of my body”, Lomu told the magazine.
He is now back out of hospital, but suffers bouts of tiredness and nausea.
He described having a constant “chalky taste” in his mouth from the drugs, some of which are taken directly through lines in his chest so that he has to sponge bath instead of shower.
He is also on dialysis four times a week.