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Jonah Lomu death: Ulster and Ireland stars mourn passing of rugby great

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 18/11/2015

Tributes are flooding in for All Black great Jonah Lomu who has died aged just 40.

The game's first global superstar was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease in 1996, and had a transplant in 2004 that would ultimately fail in 2011.

He passed away late last night, news that was confirmed by All Blacks team doctor John Mayhew in the early hours of this morning and who described the death as totally unexpected and revealed that the cause had been cardiac arrest.

He had spent the recent World Cup in England, acting as an ambassador for Heineken where he was a huge draw for fans at events held around the country, and returned home only this week.

A figure who transcended the game of rugby, he amassed 37 international tries in 63 Tests, first crossing the whitewash with a brace against Ireland in the 1995 World Cup.

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Jonah Lomu has died at the age of 40.
Jonah Lomu has died at the age of 40.
Lomu's made a huge impact at the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
In 1995, Jonah Lomu became rugby's first global superstar when he took the Rugby World Cup by storm. Lomu scored seven tries in the tournament but it was his performance against England in the semi-final which really caught the eye. The twenty-year-old winger, who weighed just under twenty stone and towered over his opposition at 6'5", famously trampled over Mike Catt on his way to scoring four tries and dumping England out of the tournament in a 45-29 victory for the All Blacks. After the game, England captain Will Carling famously described Lomu as 'a freak'. The Kiwi's further eight tries in the 1999 tournament make Lomu the all-time Rugby World Cup top try-scorer with fifteen tries.
Jonah Lomu (right) is a big draw, despite never having won the Rugby World Cup
Born in Auckland to Tongan parents in 1975, Jonah Tali Lomu spent the early part of his childhood in Tonga.
He moved out to the left wing by the time he won the first of his 63 Test caps as the youngest ever All Black - against France at the age of 19 years and 45 days - and it was as a move none would argue with.
One of the All Blacks greatest players was also one of the sports most intimidating. Standing at 6ft 5in, Lomu would dwarf his opponents and the ones that dared tackle him would be swatted away like flies. That he has since moved into the world of body building and can now be seen in skimpy underwear striking silly poses has somewhat tarnished his fearful reputation.
Superstar: Jonah Lomu in action for the All Blacks
In front of a world record crowd of 109,874 in Sydney, Jonah Lomu scored a last minute try for the All Blacks, giving them an incredible victory against Australia.
His imposing frame meant he was soon making an impression on the rugby pitch. However, when he represented New Zealand schoolboys, it was as a number eight.
Jonah Lomu limbers up with the New Zealand squad in Auckland today" data-title=" Jonah Lomu limbers up with the New Zealand squad in Auckland today" >
Jonah Lomu limbers up with the New Zealand squad in Auckland today
Despite his World Cup heroics, Lomu never won a World Cup.
Lomu looks on during the IRB 2011 Rugby World Cup Opening Ceremony at Eden Park on September 9, 2011 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
His international career ended in 2002 and t he following year he spent the first of many hours receiving kidney dialysis treatment. The year after that Lomu revealed he needed a transplant. He had it - but his body rejected it in 2011 and the dialysis continued.
Lomu was in the United Kingdom for the recent World Cup, where he tweeted passionately about the sport he still loved. The success of "the brothers in black" was relished publicly by someone who had lived the moment himself. He is survived by wife Nadene and their young sons Brayley and Dhyreille.
Rugby World Cup 1995 New Zealand vs Ireland Jonah Lomu ©INPHO/Billy Stickland
Jonah Lomu is tackled by Gary Longwell of Ireland Mandatory Credit©INPHO/Billy Stickland
Ireland v Barbarians. All Black Jonah Lomu playing for the Barbarians breaks through the Irish defence during the friendly at Lansdowne Road, Dublin Sunday May 28 2000. PA Photo: Chris Bacon...S
Jonah Lomu scores a try against Ireland during the second half of their international rugby union game at Lansdowne Road, Dublin, November 17, 2001. REUTERS/Paul McErlane...S
New Zealand Rugby star, Jonah Lomu at the launch of Ballygowan's new Sports Pack in Dublin's Shelbourne Hotel. Picturen By David Conachy. 16/01/2003.
All Black star Jonah Lomu is tackled by four year old Dan Sheehan at the launch of the new Ballygowan sports Pack at Stephens Green in Dublin. 16/01/2003
Jonah Lomu of New Zealand sings the national anthem before the start of the England v NZ International, Twickenham, London 09/11/2002.
New Zealand Rugby star, Jonah Lomu at the launch of Ballygowan's new Sports Pack in Dublin's Shelbourne Hotel. Picturen By David Conachy. 16/01/2003.
Jonah Lomu and Denis Hickie in the International Friendly Ireland vs New Zealand All Blacks 17/11/2001. ©INPHO/Patrick Bolger
Cardiff Blues and former All Black Jonah Lomu arrives for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, Sunday December 11, 2005.
Rugby Legend Jonah Lomu turns on the Christmas Lights in Limerick.

Kidney disease that devastated rugby star's life

Denis McBride, who was part of the Ireland squad at the tournament started at flanker that day, was famously asked how best to stop the marauding wing, replying that without the aid of a baseball bat he wasn't sure.

Former Ireland captain Paddy Johns was alongside McBride in the back-row and the Dungannon man recalled clutching at thin air as Lomu danced through their defensive line.

"6'5'' and the guts of 20 stones, he wasn't an easy man to stop," he said.

"I remember after that game, because he was still under the radar at that time, people saying that our defence should be ashamed of their tackling.

"It was only when he went on, and did what he did against England, that people realised what we had been up against.

"It's a tragic loss for the sport. He was one of a kind really."

Ulster and Ireland winger Tommy Bowe took to Twitter to reveal his dismay at the legend's death, posting: "Very shocked to hear the sad news of Jonah Lomu. Our sport has lost its first real superstar #RIPJonah."

The sentiment was shared by Irish legend Brian O'Driscoll who added: "Really awful news to wake up to this morning. Jonah was rugby's first real superstar. Thoughts are with his family."

Ulster-bound All Black Charles Piutau called him the greatest of all time as he tweeted: "Shocked and sad to hear such news. Looked up to him growing up and the G.O.A.T of the game. R.I.P Jonah Lomu, prayers go out to the family."

Incumbent full-back Louis Ludik also took to social media to say: "Our generation's biggest #legend will be remembered forever. Felt inspired every time he touched the ball."

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