Lomu, 38, who suffers from a rare kidney disorder that required a transplant in 2004 , was the star of the tournament’s opening ceremony but said he began feeling unwell soon after the event at Auckland’s Eden Park.
“It started out as a wonderful evening, but as the night wore on I started to feel unwell. By the time I got home I was in a bad way,” he said in an updated edition of his autobiography “Jonah: My Story”.
Vomiting, sweating and suffering from the shakes, Lomu said he was rushed to hospital, where tests confirmed the kidney he had received seven years earlier was failing.
“My bloodstream was septic and the doctors were starting to think the worst: that my kidney had failed and my body was in total meltdown,” he said in extracts of the book published Tuesday.
“Over the next few hours I got worse. I couldn’t keep anything down.”
Lomu was hospitalised for more than two weeks and his doctor John Mayhew said it was touch and go for the hulking winger.
“For a while there Jonah was an extremely sick man,” he said. “There was a distinct possibility he could have died as a result of serious renal failure.”
Lomu undergoes regular dialysis and is on the waiting list for a second kidney transplant.
Lomu, a father-of-two, is seen as rugby union’s first global superstar, rising to fame through his stunning performances in the 1995 World Cup and playing a major part in New Zealand’s 1999 campaign.
He still holds the record for most tries at the World Cup, with 15 in total, and scored 37 tries in 63 Tests for New Zealand.
He was diagnosed with the kidney disorder nephrotic syndrome in 1995 and it eventually cut short his playing career.