Sir Graham Henry has revealed his shock and sadness at the death of All Black legend Jonah Lomu on Wednesday.
The former winger passed away unexpectedly in Auckland. He was 40-years-old.
"It is just so sad, I saw him at the world cup and he looked so well," Henry is quoted as saying in the New Zealand Herald.
"It's just a hell of a shock."
Henry coached the Blues in 1996 and 1997 when Lomu was a part of the camp. He recalls a moment during a pre-season game where it was clear that the winger had won the hearts and minds of rugby fans.
"We played a pre-season game in 1996, in Greymouth of all places, against the Highlanders," said the former All Black coach.
"There were probably 5000 people watching the game. After the game there were 4500 people around Jonah and 500 around the rest – and there were players like Zinzan Brooke and Fitzy [Sean Fitzpatrick] and all those sort of guys in the team. There were a lot of well-established international footballers – but here was this guy who was just sensational and everybody wanted a piece of him."
Henry added that he remembers Lomu as a shy player, but his escapades during his barnstorming career saw him evolve into one of the great ambassadors for rugby.
"He was a very shy boy…he would hardly say a couple of sentences," recollected Henry.
"He was educated through the game to a large extent. In recent times he had become a highly sought after ambassador for the game. He spoke exceptionally well. I remember hearing him speak at a couple of functions and being very, very impressed."