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New Zealand in emotional tribute to rugby legend Lomu

By AP Reporter

A public memorial service to remember New Zealand rugby great Jonah Lomu took place at Eden Park stadium in Auckland yesterday.

World Rugby chairman Bernard Lapasset led the tributes to the former All Blacks winger, who died at the age of 40 last month.

Pupils of Lomu's former school, Favona Primary in South Auckland, performed a song they had written in tribute, while there were video messages from Elton John and the Queen amongst others. Thousands of mourners were in attendance as the memorial opened with a traditional Maori haka and powhiri welcome ritual.

Lomu's coffin was then carried into the stadium by pallbearers, including former All Blacks Michael Jones, Frank Bunce, Joeli Vidiri and Jerome Kaino.

Lomu's wife Nadene followed, accompanied by her two sons Brayley, 6, and Dhyreille, 5.

Former All Blacks coach John Hart spoke on their behalf.

Lapasset claimed Lomu's contribution to rugby "cannot be overstated", describing him as "a giant of a man (who) leaves a giant space in rugby. He will forever be a big part of rugby's story."

Lomu battled nephrotic syndrome for almost 20 years which is thought to have contributed to his death.

He played 63 games for New Zealand and scored 37 tries.

A private family burial service will be held in Auckland today.

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