Richie McCaw retires as world mourns Jonah Lomu
The world continued to mourn Jonah Lomu as the NZRU sent captain Richie McCaw into retirement.
WELLINGTON - New Zealand Rugby continued to mourn former All Blacks winger Jonah Lomu on Thursday as they sent captain Richie McCaw into retirement.
The 40-year-old Lomu, who suffered kidney disease for 20 years, died unexpectedly on Wednesday hours after returning home from attending the Rugby World Cup in England.
The sport's governing body in New Zealand (NZR) had announced McCaw's media conference before finding out about Lomu's death.
The organisation chose to go ahead as planned because they felt it was the first time they could also properly pay tribute to Lomu, though McCaw said they had considered postponing his own announcement.
"I didn't think we'd get it right either way, really," McCaw told reporters after NZR staff and assembled media observed a minute's silence for Lomu. "The last thing I wanted was to be disrespect(ful) or anything to do with that.
"It was a chance to acknowledge and pass our sympathies on to his family firstly."
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and NZR Chief Executive Steve Tew expressed their condolences to Lomu's family but also paid tribute to the impact he had on the game.
Tew said Lomu's exploits at the World Cup 20 years ago had helped sway the battle that erupted after the tournament between the national unions and a breakaway professional organisation.
"In 1995 at that Rugby World Cup, the things that Jonah achieved raised some eyebrows of some people who had a significant amount of money, and that was the point where the game was about to be lost," said Tew.
"If the potential for the game had not been demonstrated by Jonah at that particular point in time, we may not be sitting here."
McCaw, who made the All Blacks just as Lomu was winding down his international career, said he had been in awe of the quietly spoken winger.
"To play alongside a guy you watched as a young fella was pretty amazing," McCaw said, adding that he first truly understood Lomu's stature in the game when he went on his first overseas tour.
"We got to a training ground, there was hundreds of people in Ireland, I climbed off the bus, the whole mob came at me, I thought 'this is cool to be an All Black'.
"They kept running past, I looked behind me and there was Jonah.
"That hit home to me about the superstar he was."
McCaw echoed the thoughts of Hansen, who felt the world did not see the absolute best from Lomu because of his illness.
"Had he been 100 percent fit and not having to battle through I just wonder what he could have done and that's scary," McCaw said.
"I know playing against him, I used to think ... I'll just go low and the first time I played against him I had two goes at it and didn't get close.
"I just feel privileged having got to play alongside the guy and know him."