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All Black legend Jonah Lomu dead at 40

Jonah Lomu died unexpectedly on Wednesday at the age of 40 after a long battle with kidney disease

Published: Updated:

Rugby great Jonah Lomu, a pioneering global superstar whose speed and power terrorised opponents, died unexpectedly on Wednesday aged 40 after a long battle with kidney disease, prompting an outpouring of tributes for “a legend of the game”.

Lomu had for decades struggled with the kidney illness that cut short his playing career, but close acquaintances said his sudden death still came as a shock.

He passed away at his Auckland home, family spokesman John Mayhew said, after returning from a trip to Britain.
“It was totally unexpected, Jonah and his family arrived back from the UK last night and he suddenly died this morning,” Mayhew told TV3.

Mayhew, a former medic with the All Blacks, revealed Lomu’s family were “going through a terrible time”, before he broke down in tears.

Lomu played 63 Tests and scored 37 tries for New Zealand, rising to stardom at the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa.

At his peak, the 1.96 metre (six foot five inch) Lomu weighed 120 kilograms (265 pounds) and could cover 100 metres in 10.8 seconds.

He combined the speed of a backline player with the power of a forward, creating a new template for wingers and attracting a global audience for the newly professional sport of rugby union.

Fellow legends paid tribute on social media to a player they acknowledged had a unique status.

Lomu’s death was most keenly felt in his homeland, where New Zealand Rugby chief Steve Tew said: “We’re all shocked and deeply saddened at the sudden death of Jonah Lomu. Jonah was a legend of our game and loved by his many fans both here and around the world.”

Yet his spell at the top had such an impact that he was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2011.

“He was one of those rare superstar players that transcended rugby,” South Africa, New Zealand and Australia Rugby boss Brendan Morris said.