Thousands gather to give Jonah Lomu the last haka
New Zealand says goodbye to its famous son in a memorial service at Eden Park
A public memorial service to remember New Zealand rugby great Jonah Lomu took place at Eden Park stadium in Auckland on Monday.
World Rugby chairman Bernard Lapasset led the tributes to the former All Blacks winger, who died at the age of 40 earlier this month.
Pupils of Lomu’s former school, Favona Primary in South Auckland, performed a song they had written in tribute, while there were video messages from Elton John and the Queen amongst others.
Thousands of mourners were in attendance as the memorial opened with a traditional Maori haka and powhiri welcome ritual.
Lomu’s wife Nadene followed, wearing a woven skirt — a traditional Tongan symbol of respect and mourning — accompanied by her two sons Brayley, 6 and Dhyreille, 5.
Former All Blacks coach John Hart spoke on their behalf.
Lapasset claimed Lomu’s contribution to rugby “cannot be overstated”, describing him as “a giant of a man (who) leaves a giant space in world rugby. He will forever be a big part of rugby’s story.”
New Zealand’s prime minister John Key had recorded a video tribute in Paris, where he is attending the world climate conference, saying: “He proved that you can come from anywhere in New Zealand in any background and make it to the top.”
Lomu battled the debilitating kidney illness nephrotic syndrome for almost 20 years which eventually forced his retirement and is thought to have contributed to his death.
He played 63 games for New Zealand and scored 37 tries, a record 15 of those coming at Rugby World Cups.
A private family burial service will be held in Auckland on Tuesday.