Jonah Tali Lomu is a New Zealand-born Tongan who decided to forgo more traditional avenues of athletic endeavors among Pacific Islanders, like pro wrestling and college football, and instead opted for a career in rugby. It was probably a tough decision, being that Lomu ended up at 6-foot-5, around 265 pounds, and was generally stated as running 100 meters in under 11 seconds.
Because Lomu turns 40 today, here are some fascinating facts about one of the greatest players in the history of rugby union, and a member of the International Rugby Hall of Fame and the World Rugby Hall of Fame.
Lomu made his international debut at 19.
The New Zealand All Blacks are one of the most storied teams in rugby history. In 1994, Lomu made his debut for the team at just 19 years, 45 days, which is still the youngest-ever debut. He’s also the youngest player to appear in a Rugby World Cup final, when he was just 20 years, 43 days against South Africa, as featured in Invictus.
Lomu never scored against the South African Springboks.
Despite his proficiency at scoring (he currently sits fifth all-time among New Zealand players and 16th in the world), Lomu never crossed the line against South Africa in 12 appearances. The Springboks smartly game-planned to limit Lomu’s touches and quickly swarmed him any time he got the ball in hand, but he still managed to end up on top, as the All Blacks went 7-5 in those games against South Africa.
Jonah has scored the most tries in Rugby World Cup history.
In his two RWC appearances, Lomu notched 15 tries in 10 matches. This is even more impressive because he sat out two pool games in the 1995 Cup, one of which was against Japan, a game that New Zealand won, 145-17. I’m sure Lomu could have easily scored eight or nine tries in that game alone.
In fact, other than the two games against South Africa, Jonah scored in every single World Cup match he’s played in.