Jonah back at the sevens

Star made official ambassador

Last updated 05:00 30/01/2014
Jonah Lomu
Photo: KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NX
CAPITAL LEGEND: Jonah Lomu has returned to Wellington to become an ambassador for the upcoming sevens tournament.

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Battling kidney disease doesn't stop rugby great Jonah Lomu promoting the sport that made him a superstar.

Lomu was back in the capital yesterday after being announced as an official ambassador for the Wellington Sevens, now just a week away.

Sevens gave him his big break in rugby, but today his battles are on the health front rather than on the field.

Yesterday he said he felt good despite his ongoing fight against kidney disease, and he wouldn't stop living an active, global lifestyle.

It's now two years since he was admitted to hospital when the kidney donated in 2004 failed during the 2011 Rugby World Cup, an experience he described in his autobiography as a "total body meltdown".

"I'm doing all right, but my lifestyle is pretty busy," he said. "I've got two kids now who I love having around."

The big man made his break into international rugby through the New Zealand sevens team and was called up to the full All Blacks in 1994.

He also played for the Wellington Lions and Hurricanes and still owns a home in the capital, despite being unable to visit for almost a year.

The sevens was a perfect fit for him, he said, and Wellington's was the best sevens tournament in the world.

Wellington took a self-esteem hit during 2013 with Prime Minister John Key's "dying city" comments, but Lomu said he loved the city.

"I don't think it's dying, it needs a bit of TLC and we need to realise what we have here."

Among all the accolades and adulation he received, one of the more significant is his 1998 Commonwealth Games gold medal, the first time sevens appeared at a major Games.

With it set to feature at the 2016 Olympics, more and more countries are getting involved. Not least of those is Kenya, who knocked New Zealand out and almost won last year's Wellington tournament.

"Even 10 years ago you wouldn't have thought it," Lomu said. "That's the beauty of sevens. Anyone can beat anyone on the day."

With the lure of a gold medal, there was talk of some current All Blacks coming back to sevens for Rio, but Lomu said the transition between the two forms was hard.

"Just because you're a great player for the All Blacks doesn't mean you will be right for sevens."

Sevens Wellington general manager Marty Donoghue said about 3000 tickets for the tournament next weekend were still available.

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- The Dominion Post


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