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Wednesday, 31 October, 2001, 12:56 GMT
Lomu: Back in All Black and ready to roll
Jonah Lomu in full flight
The fearsome sight of Lomu in full flight
By BBC Sport Online's Tom Fordyce

He has been described as a 'freak' (Will Carling) and 'the scariest player on the planet' (Australian hooker Jeremy Paul).

But, a few days after committing himself to New Zealand rugby until the 2003 World Cup, this gentlest of giants is in relaxed mood.

Having turned down overtures from league and union clubs in both hemispheres, Jonah Lomu has focused on a new objective.

  Jonah Lomu career
Age: 26
International appearances: 52
International tries: 31
NZ debut: June 1994 v France, Christchuch
World Cup tries: 15
Greatest game: four tries v England, 1995 World Cup
"Those offers were very tempting, but they couldn't give me one thing - the chance to pull on the All Blacks jersey," he says.

"I'm very passionate about playing for my country. There's unfinished business. I want the World Cup trophy back."

Defeat to France cost the All Blacks that trophy two years ago. The memory clearly still hurts.

"The worst part about my life is losing in the jersey," says Lomu. "The better team won on the day, but it still hurt.

"New Zealanders are very passionate about the sport, and they don't like watching their team lose."

Doesn't that bring tremendous pressure?

Lomu says puling on the All Blacks jersey is his greatest thrill
Lomu says pulling on the All Blacks jersey is his greatest thrill
"It's something you have to expect," he says. "It's the same for most sports in most countries, but because rugby's so important to New Zealanders, that pressure is doubled.

"You learn to take it in your stride and concentrate on what you have to do on the pitch.

"The fans are pretty good. They're very supportive. As long as they know you're doing your best, they take it that way."

Lomu seems to have been around so long that it comes as a surprise to discover he is only 26.

Having played his schoolboy rugby as a forward, he switched to the wing at the national trials, and made his debut in that position against France in 1994 - becoming the youngest All Black in history at 19 years and 45 days.

When your career can finish at any moment, you learn to cherish what you have right now
Jonah Lomu
The impact he made for New Zealand at the 1995 World Cup made him rugby's first global superstar.

Who was this 6'5", 18-stone monster, capable of running 100m in 10.8 seconds? And how could he be stopped?

Not by England's defence, it transpired. It took the diagnosis of a rare and serious kidney disorder called Nephritic Syndrome a year later to bring the colossus to its knees.

Doctors warned Lomu that he might never be the same player again. Privately, he feared the end of his career.

"I've always appreciated playing rugby, but that made me even more conscious of what I had, and that your time on the planet is limited," he reveals.

"When your career can finish at any moment, you learn to cherish what you have right now.

"I had to accept it and I had to deal with it. And once I'd done that, I had to work twice as hard to get back to the top."

Now he's back, and at the peak of his powers, Lomu is phlegmatic about his future.

Lomu on the run for the All Blacks
On the run for the All Blacks
"I don't think so much about my own role. You tend to think about the side winning, first and foremost.

"I think about doing my job, enjoying the moment, and enjoying being out there - being part of a team that goes out there and plays hard. And a team that wins."

The All Blacks are due to tour Scotland and Ireland next month. Lomu dismisses suggestions that senior players may pull out over safety concerns following the terrorist attacks on America.

"If I make the squad, I'll be on the plane, simple as that," he says.

"It's been left up to the players. But I'm keen to go. It's a gamble I'm willing to take.

"My sporting hero is Muhammad Ali. I never got the chance to see him fight in the flesh, but his attitude, his belief in himself, was inspiring.

"He stood up for what he believed in, whatever the consequences. I try to do the same."

Jonah Lomu's new video and DVD, 'Jonah', is released on 12 November.

See also:

19 Oct 01 |  Rugby Union
Lomu pledges future to All Blacks
15 Oct 01 |  Rugby Union
All Black stars commit to tours
04 Sep 01 |  Rugby League
Leeds target Lomu
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