JONAH LOMU: Rugby union's first professional global superstar

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JONAH LOMU: Rugby union's first professional global superstar
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As millions of New Zealand rugby fans come to terms with the prospect of not seeing many of their retiring heroes in action for the All Blacks again they must now cope with the fact they will never see Jonah Lomu again at all.

But the rugby union legend's death at the age of just 40 leaves a huge hole not only in his own country but throughout the world and in every sport.

The 6ft 5in, 18-stone winger changed the face of the game to become professional rugby's first global superstar in 1995 when THAT try against England in the World Cup semi final introduced us to a true sporting phenomenon.

[PICTURE THIS: JONAH LOMU, 1975-2015]

[WATCH: LOMU'S FOUR-TRY EPIC AGAINST ENGLAND AT 1995 RWC]

[THE GENTLE GIANT WHO CHANGED RUGBY FOREVER]

[DAN CARTER LEADS TRIBUTES TO LOMU]

[THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JONAH LOMU]

The fact it was one of four tries was almost an irrelevance. He simply ran over the England back line, the same back line that had helped beat world champions Australia in the previous round.

And Lomu did it like a 15-year-old let loose in an under-8s match. He was, quite literally, head and shoulders above the rest.

Sprinting out of the amateur era Lomu was the first genuine giant, megafast winger.

Built like a forward the 20-year-old created a template many have tried to copy but have never managed to emulate or better.

Players might be bigger nowadays but pre-1995 the likes of Lomu were usually seen trundling packs forward not completing sub 11-second 100m times.

Fans could not get enough of him. His sheer power, pace and aggression drew gasps of appreciation and respect from every nationality.

He was not one of players you loved to hate. He was incredible to watch and opposing fans almost relished the prospect of seeing him take on their defence.

[NEW ZEALAND IN SHOCK OVER LOMU'S DEATH, SAYS MARSHALL]

[REACTION TO THE DEATH OF JONAH LOMU]

[LOMU'S EXPLOITS A CATALYST FOR PROFESSIONAL RUGBY - NZRU]

If your team kept him out but lost you felt like you had one won. He was far from a one-man team but he was always the main attraction.

He ruled supreme in the 1995 and 1999 World Cups without winning either. He saved his best for England scoring five tries in two matches against them prompting Red Rose skipper Will Carling to brand Lomu 'a freak'.

Just how South Africa and France were able to derail the runaway train is still a mystery to many as he made a pitch look small let alone individual opponents.

By 2002 ill health had started to take its toll on the great man. His All Blacks career was over after 63 appearances and 37 tries although rumours constantly abounded that he would return at Test level his kidney problems left him a shadow of his former self.

He finally quit playing in 2006 After a playing career that had taken in six different clubs, including Cardiff Blues.

But he always remained the star attraction, still drawing huge crowds and massive media attention during the 2015 World Cup.

What he said and thought mattered but the softly-spoken gentle giant never took it for granted or allowed the fame to go to his head. His Christianity meant more to him than his rugby gift.

His sudden death has shocked the sporting world and it will be felt hard in New Zealand just weeks after the All Blacks made history by becoming the first country to retain the trophy.

But the rest of the world will share its grief, remembering the amazing player who shattered defences with his skill, power and grace but who always remained grounded enough to stay true to both his own values and those of the sport he lit up for an all-too brief time.

New Zealand has given rugby some true greats and this year arguably the greatest team of all time clinched a third World Cup.

But as immense as that squad was very few of them will have made such an impression on the game as Jonah Lomu.

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