Hong Kong Sevens

Legendary Lomu turns back the clock with star billing at Tens

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2007, 12:00am

Superstar Jonah Lomu will play in Hong Kong next week, 11 years after his last competitive appearance in the city.

The All Black icon will play for the HSBC New Zealand Legends in the GFI HKFC Tens at the Hong Kong Football Club on March 28-29.

Lomu's rise to global sporting celebrity coincided with his three winning appearances at the Hong Kong Sevens from 1994-96.

Now, after winning 63 New Zealand caps, playing in two Rugby World Cups and making an amazing comeback from a kidney transplant, the giant winger is ready to pull on his boots again in the city where he first made his name.

'Hong Kong holds some special memories for me and I'm looking forward to playing there again with some of my old mates in the New Zealand Legends side,' said the 31-year-old Lomu, who first competed in the Hong Kong Sevens in 1994 as an unknown 18-year-old and helped New Zealand to their first title for five years.

Less than three months later, at the age of 19 years and 45 days, he became the youngest-ever All Black when he made his test debut against France in Christchurch.

Lomu returned to Hong Kong in 1996 to complete a hat-trick of Sevens wins - his last playing appearance in the territory.

At the end of that year he was diagnosed with a rare kidney disorder, nephrotic syndrome, which saw him take time off from rugby, but he returned and played another starring role for New Zealand at the 1999 World Cup.

Lomu played his final test in November, 2002, against Wales in Cardiff, before his worsening kidney condition curtailed his international career and he underwent a transplant in July, 2004. He astonished the medical and sporting world by making a comeback to top-grade rugby the following year, playing for Welsh side Cardiff Blues in the Celtic League before returning to club rugby in his homeland.

Tens organising committee chairman Darron Mitchell hailed Lomu's participation as massive boost for the tournament. 'Jonah is, simply, the most famous rugby player on the planet, a man whose appeal goes way beyond the boundaries of the game,' said Mitchell. 'He's massively popular in Hong Kong.'

Lomu will be part of a powerful Legends line-up that includes his former All Blacks teammate Scott Robertson, who won 23 caps at loose forward between 1998 and 2002, and number eight Paul Miller, who toured with the All Blacks in 2001.

Also in the Legends team will be New Zealand sevens stalwart Orene Ai'i, the 2005 IRB Sevens Player of the Year, and Kiwi-born former Scotland international Brendan Laney.

Other international stars appearing at the Tens include 1999 World Cup-winning Wallaby Toutai Kefu, who will turn out for the Josef Seibel International Panthers, and former All Blacks Scott McLeod, Mark Ranby, and Keith Lowen, who will appear for Fortis New Zealand Metro. Reigning champions Metro are the top seeds, while perennial Kiwi contenders Aliens, last year's runners-up, are number two.

A total of 24 teams will take part in the Tens, competing in the Cup, Plate and Bowl competitions.