Jonah Lomu is dead at 40

Jonah Lomu. Photo: Getty.

All Black star Jonah Lomu has died aged 40.

Former All Blacks doctor John Mayhew said Lomu died unexpectedly in New Zealand this morning.

“The family are obviously devastated, as are friends and acquaintances,” Mayhew said

“It was totally unexpected. Jonah and his family arrived back from the United Kingdom last night and he suddenly died this morning.”

He’d been in the UK to watch his former side win back-to-back World Cups, defeating Australia 34-17 in the final.

One fan, Craig Norenbergs, spotted Lomu returning to New Zealand at Auckland airport yesterday morning.

New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew said “We’re all shocked and deeply saddened at the sudden death of Jonah Lomu. 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.”

Sonny Bill Williams, a member of the current champion All Black side and team mate Dan Carter also expressed their condolences.

The Auckland-born winger was one of the game’s most feared players, playing 63 tests for the All Blacks. He is the youngest ever All Blacks player, making his debut against France in 1994.

Jonah Lomu. Photo: Getty.

He was an unstoppable No. 11 at 1.96 metres (6ft 5in) and 119kg (262lb) and redefined the wing position. His performance at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa stunned rugby fans when he scored seven tries in five matches, including two against Ireland in just his third international game. His four tries against England in the semi-final led Will Carling to declare after losing 45–29 that “He is a freak and the sooner he goes away the better”.

The World Rugby clip below shows him simply bulldozing over the hapless English fullback Mike Catt to score during the 1995 tournament.

Lomu’s 15 tries in 11 matches at just two World Cups is still the record. He scored 37 tries in international rugby, placing him 16th on the all-time list. He was named the best World Cup player of all time in September.

South Africa’s ability to shut down Lomu in the 1995 final on home soil, keeping him try-less, was the key to their seemingly impossible win.

It was only after his retirement from international rugby after eight years in 2002 that details emerged of the chronic illness he endured during the 1995 World Cup, which left him confined to bed between matches.

Lomu had the major kidney illness, nephrotic syndrome, diagnosed in 1995. By 2003 he was on dialysis before a life-saving kidney transplant in 2004, donated by New Zealand radio host Grant Kereama. He returned to rugby the following year, 21 years after his debut, before finally retiring in 2007, although he continued to play the occasional charity match.

He had a second kidney transplant but it was rejected and he remained on dialysis.

Lomu was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame in 2007 and the IRB Hall of Fame in 2011.

Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver said Lomu was the game’s first genuine superstar and “an exceptional man who gave everything to the game and his community in Auckland”.

“His long battle with health has been well documented and his legend grew even greater as he continued to inspire us all with his fight for life against a rare and crippling disease,” Pulver said.

“The ARU wishes to extend its deepest sympathies to the Lomu family, as well as the New Zealand Rugby Union and the many other people in our game who were fortunate to have known the great man. Jonah’s legacy will live forever in our game, and indeed all over the world.”

Lomu was married three times. He married Nadene Quirk in 2012 and they had two sons, Brayley, and Dhyreille.

Lomu’s talent was used to devastating effect in the 1995 World Cup, as the clip below shows.

This clip shows just how dominant Lomu was with the ball, bulldozing his way through and over opposition defence.

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