Keith Wood ‘heartbroken’ at death of Jonah Lomu

Former Ireland captain played against the All-Black on a number of occasions

Jonah Lomu in action against Ireland during the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Jonah Lomu in action against Ireland during the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

 

Former Ireland captain Keith Wood has spoken of his sadness at the death of New Zealand international Jonah Lomu, saying the winger “catapulted the game onto the world stage.”

Wood was on the bench when Ireland played New Zealand in Johannesburg during the 1995 World Cup. It was on that day that the All-Black winger tore Ireland apart, scoring two tries to help his team to a 43-19 win.

“Almost heartbroken actually is the phrase that comes into it,” Wood told Newstalk’s Richie McCormack this morning. “I knew Jonah pretty well. I played against him a couple of times, got to meet him a lot over the years. Sat on the bench in that game in 95 when he steam-rolled Ireland long before he stream-rolled England.

“It’s just awful news. 40 years of age. He’s been fighting manfully the kidney complaint for 13 or 14 years and it’s been very, very tough for him. Absolutely gutted I have to say, a lovely guy. I’d been in contact with him over the World Cup and it’s too sad and too soon.”

Second Captains

Speaking about 1995 match Wood summed up the incredible speed and power of Lomu with an anecdote about his fellow substitute that day – Alan Burke.

“I was a couple of years older than Jonah. I remember sitting on the bench and watching this devastating display of skill, speed and power. And Paul Burke, the Ireland sub out half, famously there was an injury in the backs and he’s saying ‘I’m not going on, I’m not going on.’”

“It was a bit of a joke for the fact that this guy was just destroying the game. He absolutely catapulted the game onto the world stage.

“There was a couple of great lines after that from his own humility. He was so extraordinary in that World Cup yet he said ‘yeah, it was great to part of something great with South Africa winning the World Cup on their own turf.’ And it was an amazing sense of humility in that here was this huge star on the world stage but he recognised he was part of something bigger.

“They recognised his pace could be better used on the wing but he was a bit of a wild card pick for that World Cup in ’95 and suddenly he got his change. It was like the game was right for him at that stage. I just think it’s terribly sad news this morning.”

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