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Rugby legend Jonah Lomu brings muscle to sevens' Rio Olympics campaign

updated 8:00 AM EST, Thu January 30, 2014
Jonah Lomu enjoyed a stellar rugby union career which saw him become one of the sport's all-time greats. The New Zealander shot to prominence as a teenager competing in the 1994 Hong Kong Sevens and continued to play the short-form version until 2001. Jonah Lomu enjoyed a stellar rugby union career which saw him become one of the sport's all-time greats. The New Zealander shot to prominence as a teenager competing in the 1994 Hong Kong Sevens and continued to play the short-form version until 2001.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jonah Lomu to serve as ambassador to Wellington Sevens event
  • The tournament is the New Zealand leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series
  • Lomu played sevens for New Zealand between 1994 and 2001
  • He won 64 caps for the All Blacks' 15-a-side team

(CNN) -- One of rugby's global stars is returning to the public eye to help promote sevens ahead of the sport's Olympic debut at Rio 2016.

New Zealand great Jonah Lomu, a veteran 63 caps for the All Blacks in the 15-a-side form of the game, will act as an ambassador for next month's HSBC Sevens Worldwide Series event in Wellington.

The giant winger became a worldwide star after an electrifying series of performances on the wing for the All Blacks at the 1995 World Cup, but the second half of his career was blighted by serious kidney problems that required a transplant in 2004.

"He is a legend in the game of fifteens, and more importantly, he's a legend in the game of sevens," Sevens Wellington general manager Marty Donoghue said in a statement.

"He's also a legend in Wellington, so to be able to bring all of those things together and have him be a part of the tournament is incredibly special."

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"With the sport of sevens set to make an appearance at the 2016 Rio Olympics, we also look at this as an opportunity for Jonah to be an advocate for the next generation of sevens athletes."

Read: "Like Mardi Gras and the Olympics" -- Rugby sevens in Las Vegas

Before becoming the youngest player to be selected for an All Blacks Test match in 1994, Lomu shot to prominence with his performances at that year's Hong Kong Sevens event.

"It is a privilege more than anything else to be part of this tournament," the 38-year-old said in a statement.

"I'm on board with anything that encourages homegrown rugby and showcases Wellington at its best. This is our nation's capital city, and in my eyes, this is the best tournament in the world."

Lomu eventually retired from professional rugby in 2007, having made a brief comeback following his transplant, and later made a handful of appearances for a French amateur team.

He was scheduled to take part in a charity boxing event in 2011, but had to withdraw due to his continued kidney problems.

Wellington is of special significance to Lomu after he spent three years playing for the regional Hurricanes team in the southern hemisphere's Super Rugby competition, while also representing the city in provincial competition.

Despite his many triumphs, sevens success in Wellington evaded Lomu.

"As much as I was born an Aucklander, Wellington has always felt like home, so for me, this feels like I'm coming home," he explained.

"I've played all the tournaments, and the one tournament that slipped through my fingers, was this one.

"So every time the Kiwi boys win here in Wellington, I always feel proud. Even more than that, it's just amazing to watch how Kiwis get in behind the tournament itself."

Lomu is convinced that sevens can help attract new players to the sport of rugby.

"When you're looking towards the future and where things can really grow, sevens is your game," he added.

"With it now being an Olympic sport, there is no bigger stage, and being there will take it to another level."

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