Jonah Tali Lomu, 26, a New Zealander of Tongan descent, grew up in South Auckland and switched from rugby league to rugby union at the age of 14. In 1994, shortly after his 19th birthday, he became the youngest-ever All Black Test player when he made his debut on the wing against France. Since then he has won 52 caps, playing in two World Cups and becoming the highest try-scorer in World Cup history. He has also overcome nephritic syndrome, a rare and serious kidney disorder which kept him out of the game for nearly a year.
What are the basic fitness demands of playing rugby at the highest level?
It's a very individual thing. It also depends on the position you play. Everybody has standards; if you don't meet them you don't get picked. Essentially, it comes down to attitude. You must make sure you prepare as well as possible, and hope that's good enough.
How do you adapt your training routine to combine the speed and strength which are so essential to your game?
Of the two, speed is the crucial thing. I seem to react fairly quickly to weights – in a week I could put on two and a half or three kilos – so I have to be careful not to train too much and to stay away from the weights a bit. I do repeated speed and cross-training every day. It's weights for an hour and a half on Monday and then back to the gym later in the week, but mainly for plyometrics and bungee cord. It's about building up explosive power.
How important is diet?
I pretty much eat the way I feel. We can eat what we like as long as we don't eat too much. It's down to us really, but if you don't look after yourself you're always going to get shown up on the field.
What do you eat before a big game?
I normally have a large helping of mashed potatoes, bread and spaghetti – with tomato sauce. Most of it is just about carbo-loading really.
Can't you feel them jumping around during a game?
No, I usually eat a couple of hours before I go on to the pitch – it's a bad idea to eat all that lot too close to the game.
You faced and overcame nephritic syndrome. Did that mean an enforced change in your diet or training routine?
No. I have regular tests on my kidneys and it is something I am aware of, but I basically focus on what I have to do. It doesn't affect my training or diet.
You're a big music fan. Does listening to the right song help your match preparation?
Yes, music is a big part of it, even in the car on the way to the ground. You can just hit one good song, push the repeat button and off you go. If I hit the right song with the right tone and the right rhythm then bang – I'm away. When you're running you get the beat in your head and it really gets the blood pumping.
What advice would you give to young players keen to follow in your footsteps?
I'd tell them to enjoy the game and everything else will follow. They need to train as hard as they can but enjoying the game is the most important thing. I discovered rugby union when I went to boarding school – it was the only contact sport they played.
Interview by Jonathan Thompson 'Jonah', a documentary charting Lomu's career from his schooldays to the 1999 World Cup, was released by Freemantle Home Entertainment this week on DVD and VHS, £19.99 and £14.99 respectively.Reuse content