Rugby Union: Lomu to fight kidney illness

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Jonah Lomu, the New Zealand wing who captured the sporting world's imagination when he almost single-handedly destroyed England in the 1995 World Cup, yesterday sounded his intention to bounce back from a serious kidney disorder.

The 21-year-old All Black was due to return to England next month on the Auckland Blues' mini-tour of Europe as part of their preparations for the defence of their Super-12 title.

But he told a news conference in Auckland yesterday that he had a rare condition known as nephritic syndrome which would require intensive medical treatment that will sideline him for at least six months. The All Black coach John Hart said he was hopeful Lomu would be able to make the tour of England scheduled for the end of this year.

The treatment will involve 60 injections and tablets a day and means he would not pass random drug tests. Asked what he thought about being given just a 50 per cent chance of full recovery, Lomu said: "It is the chance I've got to take and it is better than doing nothing about it.

"I'd rather miss out six months than miss out on a whole lifetime of living, really. I've had to sit down and have a really good think about it with my wife Tanya, but it's something that I have to deal with. I've had a few knocks in my career, this is another one."

Doctors suspect he may have been suffering from the condition for more than two years, possibly as early as his schooldays. "I lose a lot of the goodness that is in my body through my kidneys, and it's not holding," Lomu said. "It's making me tired a lot and I have to work a little harder to try and keep where I am."

Hart, describing the news as a major blow for the All Blacks, said Lomu had had his detractors over the last year. "And I hope that some of them may now sit back and reflect that he's a guy who has shown tremendous courage to try and continue to play," he added.

All Black doctor John Mayhew said Lomu was suffering from low body protein in his blood, making him more susceptible to infection and causing swelling during air travel.

"For the last 18 months he's been sort of dragging a cart around, metaphorically. He's managed to train and play, I'm not sure how," he said.

Doctors had been monitoring his condition, and it had not deteriorated markedly, but Mayhew said kidney specialists had decided it was time to act. Left untreated, the condition had a 10 per cent chance of regressing, Mayhew said.