Jonah Lomu came out to one last rapturous reception at Eden Park on Monday as thousands attended his memorial service.
Rugby’s first global superstar, Lomu died on 18 November aged 40 after fighting a long battle with kidney disease.
Monday saw his final public memorial and the mourners, many of them wearing Lomu’s iconic No.11 jersey, crowded into the Eden Park Stadium – the site of some his most famous moments in the All Black jersey.
The chairman of World Rugby, Bernard Lapasset, who travelled from France for the service, said Lomu had “inspired millions around the world with his incredible strength and power”.
He described him as “a giant of a man (who) leaves a giant space in world rugby. He will forever be a big part of rugby’s story.”
Prime Minister John Key recorded a video tribute in Paris, where he is attending the world climate conference, saying Lomu made a real difference in people’s lives.
Lomu’s coffin was carried into the stadium by pallbearers including former All Blacks Michael Jones, Frank Bunce and Joeli Vidiri with current All Black Jerome Kaino, as well as New Zealand rugby league player Manu Vatuvei at the front.
The coffin was followed by Lomu’s wife Nadene, who wore a woven skirt which is a traditional Tongan symbol of
respect and mourning, and by Lomu’s sons Brayley, 6, and Dhyreille, 5.
Lomu, who underwent a kidney transplant in 2004, played 63 tests for New Zealand.