Lomu to join Marseille
June 28, 2009
Jonah Lomu is set for a playing return in France © Getty Images
All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu is to sign for French third division side Marseille Vitrolles and he hopes to turn them into one of France's top clubs.
The 34-year-old burst onto the international stage at the 1995 World Cup and is widely acknowledged as one of the sport's greatest ever players.
"Marseille Vitrolles is on the point of finalising the transfer of the greatest legend in world rugby," a club statement said.
The wing, who earned 63 caps for his country, played his last Test in 2002 and had his top-flight career cut short after a kidney illness, which required a transplant in 2004. He went onto play for Cardiff the following year with little success and decided to return home to play for North Harbour in the Air New Zealand Cup.
He appeared at many matches as a spectator at the World Cup in France in 2007 and at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Dubai this year but spent a year away from the game after becoming a father with some speculating he had retired.
"I took a sabbatical year to be at my pregnant partner's side and to fully enjoy this important moment in any man's life," he said. "I never quit rugby. I decided to take a sabbatical year to be there during my partner's pregnancy, to experience this moment which is so important in a man's life. Everyone thought that I had stopped my career, but it was a mistake.
"I always feel the need to play and only I will decide when it will be the end."
The club have also confirmed the signings of Alain Hyardet, Isitolo Maka, Julian Vulakoro and David Gerard and Lomu believes they can be a force to be reckoned with in France.
"Marseille is the second city in France. It should have a great rugby club", he said. "Now the club are giving itself means to fulfil their ambitions. Promotion to Pro D2 is the priority for the club this year. It's this challenge that pleased me. The signings they have made show the club's desire to succeed and I want to be part of this adventure.
"My experience can help the club grow. I want to pass on what rugby has given to me not only to my team-mates but also to the club's youngsters."