Thousands of fans have converged on Auckland’s Eden Park to pay their last respects to Jonah Lomu. The All-Black great passed away earlier this month at the age of 40.
A Maori mourning chant echoed around the stadium on Monday as All Black legends including Michael Jones and Frank Bunce carried a black casket containing Lomu's body onto the field.
Lomu's wife Nadene and sons Brayley, 6, and Dhyreille, 5, wearing black shirts with the winger's number 11, followed with heads bowed.
New Zealand rugby greats united to pay tribute to the legendary player by performing the haka, a traditional war cry of the Maori people of New Zealand, which the All Blacks perform before every international match.Lomu had been suffering from a kidney disease
for 20 years and was awaiting a second transplant when he died on November 18.
"Too big, too fast, too much," Lomu's high school coach Chris Grinter told the mourners who gathered for the public memorial service, eloquently summing up the impact Lomu, rugby's first global superstar, had made on the game.
Many of the speakers at the service also referred to Lomu's feats off the rugby field and how he had brought hope to sick children through his many hospital visits. Several remarked on his impact as a role model for children in South Auckland, which has a high proportion of Pacific Island families related to Lomu, who was of Tongan heritage.
"You showed us to follow our dreams, never give up and follow our dreams," sang a group of students from Favona Primary School in Mangere, which Lomu attended.
The service, which was broadcast live on all major channels in New Zealand, also included musical interludes from South Auckland artists.
The service at the ground which was once a happy hunting ground for the hulking winger was the last chance for his compatriots to publicly mourn his death and pay their tributes.
Lomu is to be buried after a private funeral service on Tuesday.