Rugby mourns 'first global superstar' Jonah Lomu
Jonah Lomu will be remembered as one of rugby's greatest ever stars after changing the game forever, according to his former All Blacks skipper Sean Fitzpatrick.
The retired New Zealand wing's passing at the age of just 40 was announced in the early hours of Wednesday morning, leaving fans across the globe shocked.
Lomu, who scored 37 tries in 63 Test matches, had suffered from health problems since his retirement from the game in 2002 due to a rare kidney disease. He died after suddenly collapsing just hours after returning from a trip to Dubai.
The Auckland-born former Cardiff Blue is best remembered for his impact on the 1995 Rugby World Cup, when having gone into the tournament with only two caps to his name he scored seven tries, including four in a devastating semi-final display against England.
Former New Zealand captain Fitzpatrick told Sky Sports News: "He was the first global superstar. Everyone wanted to be Jonah Lomu.
"The way the game changed was because of the way he played. He will go down as one of the greatest."
England attack coach Mike Catt was the man Lomu famously trampled over during his semi-final blitz but he paid his own heartfelt tribute.
"I'm massively sad but the legacy he's left is incredible," Catt told englandrugby.com. "He's inspired millions of people around the world to watch the sport and start playing. He changed rugby union during the 1995 World Cup.
"His ability to move 18 stone was amazing. He didn't want to run through people every time, but he did have that ability and his footwork and speed off the mark was second to none, you just couldn't get near the guy. But if he needed to run through four of you he could."
Lomu was first spotted by New Zealand's schoolboy selectors whilst playing as a back-row forward for Wesley College in his native Auckland but was put on the path to stardom when he switched position to the wing.
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 the 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.
Zinzan Brooke, another of Lomu's one-time All Blacks colleagues, told BBC Radio 5 live: "He could have played in any position he wanted to on the field. It was [former All Blacks coach] Laurie Mains who decided to play him on the wing.
"It's amazing what he did in that '95 World Cup. He launched himself on the international scene and changed the way the game was played in an instant.
"He was very calm but you knew you had a force within the team. He was phenomenal.
"When you think of the World Cup you will always go back to Jonah running round or over opponents. You'll always remember the superstar that was Jonah Lomu.
"I'm still in shock now realising a great friend has gone."
Former All Blacks doctor John Mayhew, who also acted as a personal doctor to Lomu, insisted his former patient was in "pretty good shape" prior to his death.
Mayhew told TVNZ's One News: "Jonah has been in pretty good shape, he arrived back from Dubai yesterday and unfortunately suddenly collapsed and died at home this morning.
"He has been a fantastic person and a great friend, I have been his doctor for a long time. It's staggering, a very sad day ."
New Zealand prime minister John Key was also among those paying tribute to Lomu, who was in the United Kingdom to see his compatriots lift the World Cup last month.
Key tweeted: "Deeply saddened to hear of Jonah Lomu's unexpected passing this morning. The thoughts of the entire country are with his family."
World Rugby chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "Today rugby has lost one of its true greats. Not just one of the finest players ever to play the game, but a gentleman, a role model and an icon.
"Jonah's contribution to rugby cannot be overstated. He was the first superstar player and, through his sheer brilliance and love of the game, he brought much joy to the rugby family and took our sport to a new level of profile. He burst onto the scene with an energy, passion and intensity, the likes of which had never before been witnessed.
"Jonah will be remembered as a pioneering player, a gentleman and a great friend to the sport he loved. Our thoughts are with his family and the entire New Zealand rugby community at this sad time."