A bunch of fives from Jonah Lomu
Until the All Blacks and Wallabies came to town.
I was less happy at being winded by All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and having the bones in my right hand crushed by Jonah Lomu when I interviewed him ahead of his comeback to the game later this month.
McCaw believed he had “rumbled” me when I asked about his blocked nose after a news conference.
“Not swine flu or anything is it?”
“No, mate, just a broken nose.”
“None of the rest of the team displaying symptoms?”
“You’ve got a bet on, haven’t you?” he said, clapping me on the back and almost catapulting me down a flight of stairs. I was seeing stars.
But it was Lomu who did the real damage.
Once the most feared man in rugby, Lomu takes a “windmill” wind-up when he shakes your hand. I felt the blood drain from my right arm, came over a bit faint and asked him, please, to sit down for our interview. I certainly needed to — and he had only given me a friendly handshake. Imagine what Mike Catt felt like when Lomu literally ran over the top of him in single-handedly destroying England in a World Cup semi-final in 1995.
Catt must still get nightmares about big Jonah. “I did see Mike Catt,” Lomu recalled. “But he was in the way of where I wanted to get to.” A side-step might have been more polite, I thought, but kept it to myself.
For the record, a friendlier guy you could not hope to meet and listening to Lomu talk about his son, his recovery from a kidney disease that almost left him in a wheelchair, and his hopes for the future, was a true privilege. Jonah stayed in Japan in his ambassadorial role for the 2019 World Cup and spied me at a JRFU news conference a few days later.
He had come over to say hello and to tell me he had the same headphones as me. “Great sound, eh?” he smiled as his huge right arm swung in and crumpled mine once more, leaving it claw-shaped and unable to do up the laces on my plimsoles. An unusual excuse if ever there was one for avoiding the gym.
PHOTO: Former New Zealand International rugby player Jonah Lomu speaks during a news conference in Tokyo October 28, 2009. REUTERS/Issei Kato