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Dublin: 17 °C Thursday 22 August, 2019
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'We have spoken about it' - All Blacks motivated by honouring Lomu

The legendary wing died a year ago today.

IRELAND WENT OUT to pay tribute to Anthony Foley in Chicago, but tomorrow it’s the All Blacks who look to honour a fallen brother.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Jonah Lomu’s death at the age of 40, and the all-time rugby legend has been at the forefront of the Kiwis’ minds this week as they prepare to bounce back against Ireland.

Jonah Lomu  4 /11/1999 Lomu died a year ago today. Source: Allsport/INPHO

“We have spoken about it as a group,” said captain Kieran Read this afternoon in the Aviva Stadium. “He is one our legends in this All Black environment and family. We feel for his family at this time of the year.

“It is one thing that provides extra motivation for the group playing for him and his family.”

On top of that, the All Blacks are keen to provide those affected by the earthquakes back home in New Zealand with something to cheer.

“There are other things at home as well,” continued Read. “The earthquake is on a lot of the guys’ minds as well. The best way we can do that [pay tribute] is to go out and perform on the pitch.”

Lomu and Read come from the same neck of the woods in the Auckland and, like so many other Kiwi youngsters and those from everywhere else in the world, the All Blacks number eight recalls watching the phenomenal wing in his prime.

Read may be one of the best players in world rugby now, and an inspiration to so many children playing the game, but he too had his heroes.

“To me, Jonah is a massive inspiration,” said Read. “He is the reason why I play footy. I grew up in the area where he was from and played his footy. I went to watch him every weekend, so a massive inspiration for me and a lot of the guys.

Kieran Read Read at the All Blacks' captain's run today. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It would have been down at Pukekohe Stadium, watching him for Counties [Manukau]. He is more a legend of what he did on the pitch, but for me it was his smile and everything he did off it that was great. So he was a top man.”

While paying respect to Lomu is one of the All Blacks’ prime motivations ahead of tomorrow, they are also driven by the desire to avenge Ireland’s victory in Chicago.

Whatever they say about focusing on themselves this week, the fact that Ireland ended their 18-game winning streak hasn’t sat well.

“It is certainly a challenge that makes guys a little bit uncomfortable, a loss and how to deal with that,” said Read. “In some ways we might look back on this one as a defining one, how we responded. I am embracing it, it is exciting.

“I have always enjoyed it coming out here. I have never had an easy game coming to Ireland. The Aviva is a really passionate crowd so it is going to be a really tough Test match.”

The All Blacks were surprised to see Sean O’Brien omitted for the first clash in Chicago, but the Leinster man is back for tomorrow’s showdown in Dublin.

Read said his side are aware of O’Brien’s strengths.

Sean O'Brien O'Brien is sporting a fresh lid for this game. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“He brings a lot of experience and he’s a real good pilfer as well, so he’s pretty handy at that breakdown area. We’ll just have to focus on ourselves as ball carriers and ensure we can get some go-forward.

“One player, he’s a great player, but I think from our point of view we’re more focused on ourselves as a group.”

Revenge, honouring Lomu and lifting a nation that has been rocked by an earthquake.

The All Blacks certainly won’t lack for motivation tomorrow.

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Murray Kinsella

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