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

By Jonathan Bradley

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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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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