Tue, Oct 03, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Lomu admits his World Cup dream is now out of reach

AP , WELLINGTON

All Blacks great Jonah Lomu says his dream of representing New Zealand at next year's Rugby World Cup is over, but he is not yet thinking of retirement.

Lomu, 31, told the Herald on Sunday newspaper that his failure to win a contract to play in next year's Super 14 had ended his campaign to force his way into New Zealand's World Cup squad, two years after a kidney transplant.

"I'd be lying if I said I'm not disappointed about not getting a Super 14 contract," Lomu said. "But I have had a go. I would have been more disappointed if I didn't have a go."

"I didn't want to ask myself in 10 years, `What if?'" he said.

Lomu's desire to play for New Zealand at the World Cup in France drove him to make a comeback to top rugby after his kidney transplant, against most medical advice.

Many doctors doubted a kidney transplant recipient could reach the level of fitness necessary to play professional rugby and others counseled against the attempt, fearing the consequences for Lomu of returning to a physical contact sport.

Lomu remained determined, in defiance of that opinion, to prove he could add to the last of his 73 All Blacks appearances in 2002.

After playing in a benefit match for former England captain Martin Johnson in June last year, he won a contract with the Welsh club Cardiff. Both ventures ended with injuries but he returned to New Zealand and signed to play with North Harbour in the National Provincial Championship.

Lomu has started only one match this season and his appearances off the bench have been brief and largely ineffective. He was recently demoted to North Harbour's second XV, giving up his last hope of attracting the interest of a Super 14 franchise.

Lomu said he had been able to accept his gradual relegation from top-line status because of his love of the game.

"It is tough being on the sidelines but I believe you have to be there to support the team, otherwise you are no good to them," he said.

Lomu said he had no regrets over the course his career had taken.

"If I had my time over again, I wouldn't do anything differently," he said. "I wouldn't even change the kidney illness. It has made me a better person."

"I don't feel I've let anyone down. I've given it my all. It's been a failure in the sense I didn't make the All Blacks but I certainly didn't fail myself," he said. "I dared to dream. Who can criticize me for that?"

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