31 May 2005
MARTIN JOHNSON will bring the curtain down on the most successful career in English rugby on Saturday night hoping that his finale will re-launch that of another global star.
While the Nobok Challenge at Twickenham (7.30pm) will be Johnson's final game before retiring, Jonah Lomu will be back on the world stage for the first time since a successful kidney transplant last July.
Lomu received the organ from close friend Grant Kereama after losing kidney function in June 2003 as a result of the illness nephritis and had been receiving dialysis for eight hours a day, six times a week. The daily treatments reduced his movement to a slow walk and many people thought he would never play again.
Johnson said: "The thing that has struck me about Jonah is that he just wants to get back playing again. We probably don't realize how ill he was and for him to come back is amazing.
"From what I've seen of him in his own training sessions, he's coming here to prove a point and launch himself back onto the world scene. This may be the last time he plays at Twickenham but I hope not. I hope he gets back in the All Blacks. He didn't do England any favours but he has been magnificent for the game."
With Johnson and Lomu heading a cast with more than 1,000 caps between them it promises to be a night to remember for the World Cup-winning captain as part of the part of the Emirates Airline London Sevens.
Despite a career which has brought him 84 England caps, two Grand Slams, three British Lions tours, back to back Heineken Cup victories with Leicester, not to mention five league titles and two Cups, Johnson has been overwhelmed by the response to his testimonial match.
He said: "I have been very humbled by so many guys ringing up and saying they want to play. There are some guys I have played with and against over the years and I am really looking forward to it. I am very lucky to get the opportunity to do it.
"It'll be a very different game. It'll be fun without the pressure of a major tournament but it'll be competitive. You don't get to that standard without wanting to win. With the likes of Trevor Leota and Toutai Kefu, that's the only way they know how to play."
As for life after Saturday, Johnson has his summer camps in five venues across England but he is not making any hasty moves.
"I have got the camps but I don't want to go straight into coaching and find myself stale," he said. "I will miss the camaraderie and the highs and lows you get from winning and losing. I don't know whether you get that environment anywhere else but we will see."
Tom Smith (Northampton Saints, Scotland),
Darren Morris ( Leicester Tigers, Wales),
Andrea Lo Cicero (L'Aquila, Italy),
Raphael Ibanez (Saracens, France),
Jonathan Humphreys (Bath, Wales),
Simon Shaw (London Wasps, England),
Martin Johnson (Leicester Tigers, England, Lions),
Victor Costello (Leinster/St. Mary's College, Ireland),
Joe Worsley (London Wasps, England),
Anthony Foley (Munster & Shannon, Ireland),
Olivier Magne (ASM Clermont Auvergne, France),
Sebastien Chabal (Sale Sharks, France).
Kyran Bracken (Saracens, England),
Andy Goode (Leicester Tigers, England),
Gregor Townsend (Montpellier, Scotland),
Rob Henderson (Munster, Garryowen, Ireland),
Tony Marsh (Counties-Manukau, ASM Clermont Auvergne, France),
Ayoola Erinle (London Wasps),
Leon Lloyd (Leicester Tigers, England),
Jamie Noon (Newcastle Falcons, England),
Austin Healey (Leicester Tigers, England),
Alessandro Troncon (Benetton & Treviso, Italy).
Kees Meeuws (Castres, New Zealand),
Craig Dowd (Wasps, New Zealand),
Dave Hewett (Canterbury, New Zealand),
Danie Coetzee (Bulls, South Africa),
Trevor Leota (London Wasps, Samoa),
Ian Jones (New Zealand),
Troy Flavell (Toyota, New Zealand),
Greg Rawlinson (Blues),
Corne Krige (Northampton Saints, South Africa),
Justin Collins (Blues),
Scott Robertson (Perpignan, New Zealand),
Toutai Kefu (Kubota, Australia).
Jason Spice (Ospreys, New Zealand),
Mark Robinson (Northampton Saints, New Zealand),
Carlos Spencer (Blues, Northampton Saints, New Zealand),
David Howell (Leinster, Hurricanes, New Zealand),
Daryl Gibson (Leicester Tigers, New Zealand),
Keith Lowen (Chiefs, New Zealand Maori),
Matt Burke (Newcastle Falcons, Australia),
Jonah Lomu (North Harbour, Hurricanes, New Zealand),
Eric Rush (New Zealand Sevens, New Zealand),
Lome Fa'atau (Hurricanes, Samoa),
Bruce Reihana (Northampton Saints, New Zealand).
Tickets for the Nobok Challenge Johnno v Jonah at the Emirates Airline London Sevens are available by calling 0870 9020000 or http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/
All spectators attending the game will be given a free match programme, and a complimentary DVD featuring the careers of Martin Johnson and Jonah Lomu.