All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu has passed away aged 40.
The 6ft 5in giant, regarded as one of New Zealand’s greatest wingers, had suffered from health problems due to a rare kidney disease.
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
Lomu was widely regarded as the first true global rugby union superstar after his spectacular performance at the 1995 Rugby World Cup made him one of the sport’s most recognizable figures.
Millions watched him score when he ran over England wing Mike Catt. He went on to score seven times during the tournament
He became the youngest All Black test player at the age of 19 years and 45 days when he played against France in 1994.
Lomu, who had recently been in England to watch his beloved All Blacks lift the Rugby World Cup, went on to score 37 tries in his international career which saw him play 63 test matches.
In 1995 he was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome, a serious kidney disorder which forced the star to put his rugby playing career on hold while he was treated.
And in 2003 he was put on dialysis three times a week before receiving a transplant in 2004 and staging a comeback that saw him play for Cardiff Blues.
Tributes have come flooding in, with Jonny Wilkinson writing on Twitter: “I am so devastated to hear of the passing away of Jonah Lomu. He was the greatest superstar and a fabulous human being. I’m deeply saddened.”
England rugby star Mike Brown shared: “I can’t believe the legend Jonah has passed away! So so sad. An inspiration and hero to everyone ever involved in rugby.”
While Danny Cipriani said Lomu “was the reason I picked up a rugby ball. A legend and a true inspiration he kept fighting.”
He officially retired from rugby in 2007 and became a leading member of the Champions for Peace club, a group of 54 athletes committed to serving peace through sport.
Originally of Tongan descent, he was divorced twice and had been living with his children and third wife Nadene Quirk.
In a recent interview he said his one remaining ambition was to see the sons he thought he could never have grow into men.
His dream was to see Brayley, six, and Dhyreille, five, reach the age of maturity. He wanted to reach the age of 55.
Talking about his miracle sons, Lomu said: “When I look in the mirror, what I see is my two sons. They’re my priority. The two boys were miracles. Medically, it wasn’t supposed to happen because of my kidney stuff. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d be a dad.”
He added: “It is a battle to try to get up every morning as a renal patient. That is one of my biggest struggles. I’m just fortunate that I have the adventure of being a father. That’s what I see when I wake up in the morning, wash my face, look in the mirror and I see my two boys. And for me, that’s excitement.”