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November 19, 2015

Shock as All Black legend Jonah Lomu dies at 40

 
November 19, 2015

WELLINGTON: 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.
“I am so, so devastated to hear of the passing away of @JONAHTALILOMU,” England’s Jonny Wilkinson tweeted. “The greatest superstar and just a fabulous human being. Deeply saddened.”
France’s Thierry Dusautoir said “you inspired a generation of rugby players around the world”, while Welshman Jonathan Davies hailed “a true legend and a gentleman”.
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.”
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key also paid tribute to an “inspiration” and “game changer”.
“The thoughts of the entire country are with his family,” he said.
Shortly after announcing himself at the 1995 World Cup, Lomu was diagnosed in late 1995 with the rare kidney disorder nephrotic syndrome, which eventually forced him out of the international scene in 2002 at the age of 27.