Divided loyalty no issue for Jonah Lomu

By Cameron McMillan - APN News & Media

He is one of Tonga's favourite sons and one of the greatest All Blacks, but Jonah Lomu will be backing just one team in tonight's Rugby World Cup opener.

The former winger, who holds the record for the most tries at a World Cup, will be cheering on the All Blacks at Eden Park along with his wife and two sons, soaking in the "experience of a lifetime".

However Lomu, who is of Tongan descent, says it would have been a more painful experience if he watched with his parents.

"I know Dad will be supporting the Tongan boys and Mum will be supporting the All Blacks with myself. If I'm sitting in the middle I think I could be black and blue," said the 63-test All Black.

Lomu scored two tries in New Zealand's opening game against Tonga at the 2003 World Cup, one of two occasions he faced the island nation and, like many, he predicts a physical first-up encounter for the All Blacks.

"I expect it to be physical, that's one thing the Tongans will bring. They'll try to assert their physical presence on the game."

As evidenced by the 7000 fans who greeted the Tongan side at Auckland Airport on Monday, Lomu said a strong amount of support for all the Pacific nations would be a running theme.

"I think a lot of people overlook the Pacific Islands. There is such a multicultural mix here. You don't just have the All Blacks you have Samoa, Tonga, the Fijians who all have such a huge following over here, it's like home for them as well.

"This will be the closest for all the Polynesian islands to actually be part of a World Cup. It's just next door, a couple of hours' flight and it isn't going to cost them the moon to try and get to it."

Lomu is backing his former team to end the 24-year hoodoo and win the World Cup for the second time on home soil.

"You can't read too much into what has happened in the past, it's what happens now and these guys have a chance to rewrite history for New Zealand rugby and world rugby and hold that trophy. It's going to take a lot of hard work, some determination and a whole lot of sacrifice.

"But you've got six weeks of sacrifice and a lifetime of celebrating.

"This is a stepping stone for these boys, for the old guys and a couple of young ones as well. I've got all faith in them.

"Defence wins World Cups because everybody can attack and that's the biggest key but also a bit of luck and also hope like hell it doesn't come down to a dropkick, but I'm sure Dan Carter has covered that."


- Bay of Plenty Times

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