WORCESTER Warriors were close to signing the late ‘great’ Jonah Lomu in 2001, it has been revealed.
New Zealand legend Lomu, one of the best players to have graced the game, passed away last week at the age of 40.
The news of his death has stunned the rugby world as the destructive wing scored 37 tries in 63 matches for the All Blacks between 1994 and 2002 while battling a rare and serious kidney condition.
Speaking on Warriors’ website, Cecil Duckworth said he was a ‘great admirer’ of Lomu’s talents and held talks with him to come to Worcester.
The club’s president also revealed he travelled to New Zealand to discuss the possibility of him signing for the club in 2001.
“I was in Australia to watch the Lions Tour and I flew to Auckland to meet Jonah and his agent,” he said.
“I knew he would be a great signing for us and when I spoke to him he was keen to come to the club and play in England.
“His kidney problems had been diagnosed but were considered to be something that could be resolved without surgery so we pursued the talks.
“Sadly the early diagnosis was incorrect so we were not able to conclude our agreement.
“Thinking back I often imagine Jonah in a Worcester shirt running down the wing, scoring tries and taking us forward.”
Lomu also visited Worcester in 1999 ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Wales which saw New Zealand suffer a shock semi-final defeat to France, while Lomu finished as the tournament’s top try scorer with eight tries.
Duckworth added: “New Zealand set up their training camp here in Worcester because we were the only club in the country which had an indoor training centre.
“At the time Kingsley Jones was our captain and his father was Jonah’s agent. As a result I got to know Jonah very well and I arranged for him to come back to Worcester a few years later and sign autographs for some of our young supporters, including our current community coach Sam Verralls, who was seven at the time.
“Jonah was great and he spent a huge amount of time with our young supporters and they took lots of photographs. We had a really good evening.”