Even so, the Big Bloke was much in evidence yesterday as he materialised at Cardiff Arms Park to begin his short-term association with Welsh regional rugby - an appropriate arrangement for the man renowned as England's worst nightmare, given the sporting enmity festering on the banks of the Severn.
Determined to resurrect a career blighted by a renal condition that culminated in a kidney transplant 16 months ago, Lomu will begin training immediately with a view to making his debut for the Blues before Christmas, possibly in the Heineken Cup match against Calvisano on 17 December. "My goals are simple," he said, serenely confident in his ability to complete one of the more remarkable comebacks in the annals of professional sport.
"I want to earn my place in the team here, perform well enough to justify the management's faith in me, return home at the end of the season to play with North Harbour in the National Provincial Championship and, eventually, find a way back into the All Blacks. When I look at the wings they have now, I ask myself whether I can live with them. The only way of answering that question is to play against them."
Lomu is the wrong side of 30 now and has not played Test rugby since 2002, when he ran over England, as opposed to round them, during New Zealand's last autumn visit to Twickenham. Realistically, his chances of adding to the 63 caps he won over an eight-year period in which he became the stuff of legend are more remote than the Pacific islands of his forebears, but he is not one for allowing reality to get in the way of a good fairytale. Jonah thinks he can do it, and it will take a brave man to tell him otherwise.
"Only one doctor, a nerve specialist, ever suggested to me that I should retire," he revealed yesterday. "I guess he's eating his words. I honestly feel better than ay any time in my rugby career. People don't realise that when I was scoring my tries at the 1995 World Cup, I was already aware of my kidney disease and struggling with my training. Now, I can train in the morning and go out in the afternoon, rather than go straight to sleep as I used to do.
"I've never been able to play to my full potential, so I'm keen to find out how good I can really be. I'm not bitter about the things that have happened, because those things made me who I am. I'm positive, and I'm completely confident about what I'm setting out to do. It will be hard, but you have to take the long road to achieve something worthwhile. If you're willing in the mind, your body will follow."
His countrymen, who play England at Twickenham this weekend in the most demanding leg of their Grand Slam trip, will confirm their side this afternoon after starting 30 of their 35-strong squad in the blistering victories over Wales and Ireland. They may well find themselves without the centre Ma'a Nonu, who has been cited for inflicting a dangerous up-and-over tackle - some would call it a spear tackle - on the Irish midfielder Gordon D'Arcy in Dublin on Saturday. Nonu will appear before the International Rugby Board's judicial officer, Judge Wyn Williams QC, in London today.
Meanwhile, the England coach Andy Robinson has delayed naming his side for 24 hours in order to check on the fitness of his outside-half, Charlie Hodgson, who picked up a knock during the victory over Australia at the weekend. "We will be looking to keep the same side together, but we've just got to look at the injury situation," he said.Reuse content