Tragedy of rugby’s true superstar

Jonah Lomu pictured 'training in 2002
Jonah Lomu pictured 'training in 2002
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Tributes have poured in for former New Zealand rugby union international Jonah Lomu, who has died at the age of 40.

The wing, who played 63 Test matches for the All Blacks, had suffered from health problems since his retirement from the game in 2002 due to a rare kidney disease.

But the news still came out of the blue.

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said: “We’re all shocked and deeply saddened at the sudden death of Jonah.

“We’re lost for words and our heartfelt sympathies go out to Jonah’s family. Jonah was a legend of our game and loved by his many fans both here and around the world.”

Auckland-born Lomu burst onto the global stage at the 1995 World Cup as a 19-year-old and is best remembered for scoring seven tries in four matches in that tournament, including four in the semi-final against England in Cape Town.

He played for several domestic teams in his homeland, Auckland Blues, Chiefs and Hurricanes, North Harbour, Counties Manukau and Wellington – and also had a stint in Wales with Cardiff Blues, for whom he played 10 matches.

He retired from the game in 2007, the year he was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame. He also joined the IRB Hall of Fame four years later.

New Zealand prime minister John Key was quick to take to social media and pay tribute to Lomu, who was in the United Kingdom for the recent Rugby World Cup, won by the All Blacks.

Kay said: “The thoughts of the entire country are with his family.”

Others were quick to acknowledge the significant contribution of Lomu to the game.

Jonny Wilkinson, who kicked England to victory in the 2003 World Cup, said: “I am so, so devastated to hear of the passing away of Jonah. The greatest superstar and just a fabulous human being.”

Former Wales fly-half Jonathan Davies said: “Can’t believe it. It’s so sad, life is so cruel.”