Jonah Lomu was a relative unknown on the global rugby scene when he wreaked havoc on the footy field during the 1995 World Cup.

Twenty-three years on, another unknown, Tongan actor Mosese Veaila, will look to fill his formidable size 13 boots in Three's mini-series, Jonah.

Veaila, who graduated two weeks ago from Toi Whakaari, New Zealand's leading drama school, told the Herald on Sunday he was thrilled to get the role.

"I was pretty happy, it was pretty surreal," he said.

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Rookie actor Mosese Veaila will play Jonah Lomu in a mini-series on the rugby great.
Rookie actor Mosese Veaila will play Jonah Lomu in a mini-series on the rugby great.

One of his drama teachers, Heather Timms, said Veaila was perfect to play Lomu.

"He presents the size and scale of Jonah Lomu. It's a lot to do with his spirit. He has a wonderful combination of humility, size and presence which was what was so moving about Jonah."

The two-part series focuses on Lomu's formative years and how he took the rugby world by storm with his blockbusting form at the tournament in South Africa.

At 1.98m tall, Veaila has a similar stature to Lomu, who was 1.96m.

New Zealanders first saw glimpses of his power while playing seven-a-side school rugby as a student at Wesley College.

At the age of just 14, Lomu - who died three years ago of cardiac arrest - was added to Counties' development squad for promising players.

He went on to play 63 tests for the All Blacks between 1994-2002; scoring 37 tries.

Jonah will be aired before next year's Rugby World Cup in Japan.

As it goes into production, two rugby figures who had a huge impact on his career - his first All Blacks coach Laurie Mains and his long-time manager Phil Kingsley-Jones - revealed they hadn't been consulted about the series.

"I'd like to know who their rugby experts are," Kingsley-Jones said. "I offered to consult for them for free but they never came to me. I am alive, Jonah's not. They can write what they like. I mean they better get it right.

"I was there from day one. I took him to his first job interview at the ASB Bank. He wore his Hong Kong Sevens blazer, his All Black tie, fluorescent green trousers and boots like Herman Munster."

Mains - who brought Lomu into the All Blacks aged just 19 in 1994 - said he also hadn't been consulted.

"What worries me is that TV3 might get a contorted view of what happened when it's only me and [then All Black selector] Earle Kirton that have the inside information on how we transformed him," Mains said.

He hopes the tele-series won't be style over substance and will capture Lomu's remarkable progress as a fledgling All Black in 1994 to an iconic superstar a year later.

"It was Earle Kirton and I that brought Jonah into the World Cup rugby," Mains said.

Mains also spoke of the role former All Black wing Eric Rush took in getting the best out of Lomu.

"He befriended Jonah, he was the conduit between myself and Jonah."

Veaila is the only cast member confirmed for the Jonah production.

Lomu's brother, John, also said the family didn't know anything about the mini-series.

The Herald on Sunday can reveal award-winning actor Will Hall has auditioned to play the role of Kingsley-Jones, in a bid to hone his Welsh accent.

"He's a hell of a character, this would be a great role," Hall said.

Hall, who had just played a Welsh part in the Luminaries film, conceded the accent was a challenge.

"Sometimes Phil said, 'Oh you're bordering on Irish'."

Kingsley–Jones was emphatic Hall master his accent, saying at one stage it bordered on Pakistani/Indian.

Kingsley-Jones said he'd be delighted if Hall got to play him and if he wasn't available joked he would be content with Brad Pitt, George Clooney or Leonardo DiCaprio.

"I'm not vain how I look, as long as I don't come across stupid and as long as they tell the true story. I hope the movie will show how hard that boy worked, how consistent he was and how loyal he was to people at that time. I hope they show how I got him to believe in himself, because that took a lot of time."

The Herald on Sunday also asked Rush who he would like to play him, with the veteran of nine tests saying: "Tom Cruise or Will Smith. Whoever he is, he has to have big ears, I know that much."

Producers of Jonah, Great Southern Pictures, would not comment on the series.