Lomu looking to Europe for fitness boost

Jonah Lomu could feature for one of this season's European Cup contenders in his bid to return to full fitness. [more]

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Jonah Lomu could feature for one of this season’s European Cup contenders in his bid to return to full fitness.

The former New Zealand winger is recovering from a shoulder injury he suffered in a benefit match for Martin Johnson in June, his first game after recovering from a kidney transplant last year.

The 30-year-old has signed a two-year NPC contract with North Harbour but is currently acting in an ad hoc coaching role and the NPC season, which finishes at the end of October, will be over before Lomu is fit.

The 63-Test veteran revealed he has therefore spoken to clubs in France and Ireland who are willing to help in his bid to secure a Super 14 deal for 2007 and impress All Blacks coach Graham Henry enough to achieve his ‘ultimate goal’, a place at the 2007 World Cup in France.

He told the Herald on Sunday: "I’ve just set another game plan so I can get football. I just need game time.

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"By the time I get the nod to play, the rugby season in New Zealand is over. So now I have to look at other options.
"The gameplan has veered slightly but the ultimate goal is still the same."

Lomu would prefer a Super 14 contract for 2006 but would need a special exemption from the New Zealand Rugby Union to qualify given his lack of action in the southern hemisphere spring.

Thus a move to Europe has emerged as an appealing option for Lomu, who is expected to make a decision by the end of September.

"I’ll only be up there for a short stint and then back to play NPC," he explained. "I will feel real comfortable there."

Lomu had an operation on a fracture in his left shoulder and is expected to resume full training in two months, but has denied he was suffering from any further complications.

"Rugby is a contact sport and bones do get broken. I was just unlucky to have it happen in my comeback match," he said.

"But I’m well on my way to recovery. I’ve been in a holding pattern for a little while now but that’s allowed me to concentrate on getting my legs right after my ankle surgery. The upper body will get stronger real quick."

In the meantime, Lomu will continue his assistant coaching role with North Harbour, where he is acting as "another set of eyes and ears" for coach Alan Pollock.

"Although it’s disappointing I can’t play, it’s been fun working with the guys," he said.

"But the priority is still to get out there and play again. I’m just itching to go.

"I think I have been helpful in some ways with the guys. We have a lot of guys stepping up to a level they haven’t played before."

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