When Jonah Lomu came to Sixways

The year was 1999 and New Zealand were preparing for the Rugby World Cup in Wales.

The All Blacks would go on to suffer a shock semi-final defeat to France and Lomu would go on to achieve the feat of the tournament’s top try scorer with eight tries.

But first, the team would visit Worcester. 

Warriors President Cecil Duckworth explains: “New Zealand set-up their training camp here in Worcester because we were the only club in the country which had an indoor training centre. 

“At the time Kingsley Jones was our captain and his father was Jonah’s agent. As a result I got to know Jonah very well and I arranged for him to come back to Worcester a few years later and sign autographs for some of our young supporters, including our current community coach Sam Verralls, who was seven at the time. 

“Jonah was great and he spent a huge amount of time with our young supporters and they took lots of photographs. We had a really good evening.”

Duckworth was a keen admirer of Lomu and had talks with him to come to Worcester, later traveling to New Zealand to discuss the possibility of the winger signing for the Club in 2001.

Duckworth continues: “I was in Australia to watch the Lions Tour and I flew to Auckland to meet Jonah and his agent.

“I knew he would be a great signing for us and when I spoke to him he was keen to come to the Club and play in England.

“His kidney problems had been diagnosed but were considered to be something that could be resolved without surgery so we pursued the talks. 

“Sadly the early diagnosis was incorrect so we were not able to conclude our agreement. 

“Thinking back I often imagine Jonah in a Worcester shirt running down the wing, scoring tries and taking us forward.”

Warriors’ links with one of rugby’s biggest superstars do not end there as back in 2005, current Community Coach Sam Johnson met Lomu ahead of Martin Johnson’s testimonial.

Sam explains: “I was fortunate enough to be invited to meet Jonah ahead of the game up at Pennyhill and we had a photograph together.

“He was an extremely humble person and had time to speak to everyone – it was a really special day.”

Lomu came to Sixways again in 2013 as an after dinner speaker, where he spoke at length about his upbringing, family life and career in the game.

It is with great regret that we hear this sad news and everyone at Worcester Warriors sends their thoughts and prayers to Jonah’s friends and family.