Jonah Lomu made his much anticipated return to rugby on the weekend as he turned out for his new club Marseilles-Vitrolles in the French Third Division.
Lomu, now 34, has battled with illness an injury for many seasons now, was the major drawcard as 2500 people and over 100 media personal flocked to the ground to watch Lomu’s new team thrash Montmelian 64-13.
Jonah didn’t do much in the match, and apparently looked nervous and unsure of himself. He was playing at centre, and said he actually struggled with the language, which hindered his play.
“It was a little difficult to understand my team-mates who were talking very fast in French,” said Lomu. “I asked them to speak a little less quickly. I have to gain in confidence, and to communicate better with them. I did feel a bit lost on the pitch at times.”
Lomu enjoyed the occasion nevertheless. “This was the first match, I was not expecting a miracle. My welcome was extraordinary, as much from the public as from my team-mates,” he said.
Lomu’s new home in Marseilles is just a few minutes from the hotel the New Zealand team are staying at ahead of their meeting with France. Former Wellington teamate Ma’a Nonu says they’re eagerly anticipating a visit from the legendary All Black.
“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. It will be good to have him around,” Nonu said.
“Jonah’s one of those big fellas that looks after the young guys. He used to live in Maupuia, 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,” Nonu said.
We had requests for footage of Jonah’s return, so here it is. It doesn’t feature much action from him at all, as he had a pretty quiet match, but it does show the hype that surrounds everywhere he goes. There’s also a pretty decent hand off. French speakers, this ones for you.
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