Jonah Lomu, who died unexpectedly in November, 2015, at the age of just 40, after suffering a heart attack, was hailed as the first international superstar in rugby union. Lomu suffered from a rare kidney condition, known as nephrotic syndrome, which hampered his playing career and, ultimately, contributed to his death.
Lomu made his international debut, playing one the wing, for New Zealand against France at Lancaster Park, Christchurch on June 26, 1994, less than two months after his nineteenth birthday; in so doing, he became the youngest player ever to play for his country, beating the previous record set by inside centre Edward Wrigley in 1905. However, it was at the Rugby World Cup, hosted by South Africa, the following year that Lomu rose to prominence.
Standing 6’5″ tall and weighing in at 18 stone or more, Lomu was well-built, muscular and blessed with exceptional speed and nigh on unstoppable in full flight. He was particularly devastating in the semi-final against England in Cape Town, scoring four tries in a 45-29 victory, which led opposing captain Will Carling to call him ‘a freak’. New Zealand eventually lost the final 15-12 to the hosts at Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg, but Lomu was nonetheless named as ‘Player of the Tournament’.
At the 1999 Rugby World Cup, principally hosted by Wales, he scored eight tries to break the record for the most tries in a single tournament. All told, his 63 international caps yielded 37 tries, 15 of which came at the Rugby World Cup, making Lomu the joint-highest try scorer, alongside South African wing Brian Habana, in the history of the tournament.