New Zealand Rugby icon Jonah Lomu unexpectedly passes away

November 18, 2015, 4:53am

Lomu races clear of the Welsh defence during the 1995 World Cup to score a try as New Zealand went on to reach the final. Photo: Getty Images

By Martin Domin, James Andrew, Rory Keane, Daily Mail

The Auckland-born giant went on to star at the 1999 showpiece before retiring three years later with 63 Test caps and 37 Test tries to his name.

He had arrived in Auckland on Tuesday after travelling back from London where he had been for the Rugby World Cup working as an ambassador for sponsors Heineken.

Former All Blacks doctor John Mayhew confirmed Lomu had died on Wednesday morning. 'On behalf of the Lomu family, I can confirm that Jonah Lomu died this morning, most probably about 8 or 9 this morning,' he said. 'The family are obviously devastated, as are friends and acquaintances. 'The family have requested privacy at this stage, they are obviously going through a terrible time. It was totally unexpected. Jonah and his family arrived back from the United Kingdom last night and he suddenly died this morning.' 

New Zealand Rugy 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.'

And many of the sport's big names took to social media to pay tribute to someone who was in the England for the recent World Cup, which was won by the All Blacks.

Former New Zealand captain Sean Fitzpatrick took to Twitter to say: 'Our thoughts are with the @JONAHTALILOMU family tonight. A very special person. @AllBlacks.'

Current All Blacks favourite Dan Carter tweeted: 'I still can't believe the sad news. Love & thoughts go out to Jonahs family #RIPJonah.'

Another current All Black, Sonny Bill Williams, said: 'Shocked, thoughts are with the Lomu family right now.'

And former Wales fly-half Jonathan Davies said: 'Can't believe that Jonah Lomu has passed away. Was with him and his wife and family for an evening last month. So sad, life is so cruel. RIP Jonah you were a true legend and a gentleman.You changed the game of rugby and will be sorely missed. My thoughts are with your family.'

'I am so, so devastated to hear of the passing away of @JONAHTALILOMU The greatest superstar and just a fabulous human being. Deeply saddened' - former England international Jonny Wilkinson.

'The All Black in Blue. Rugby's first global superstar... a friend we will miss always #RIPJonah #legend #alwaysablue' - one of Lomu's former clubs, Cardiff Blues.

'#RIP Jonah Lomu such sad news.huge heart&warmest smile ever.Saw him during RWC&had the warmest welcome.proud to have called him a friend' - former England international Phil Greening.

'RIP Jonah Lomu - devastating news! True legend of the game' - Sale's England international Danny Cipriani.

'Devastated the greatest ever has passed away! The worlds in mourning for such an amazing talent yet genuine & humble human. R.I.P Jonah Lomu' - Australian international James O'Connor.

'He was to me the guy who changed the sport forever, an unbelievable machine on the pitch and a superb guy off it, the guy who could dominate whatever era of rugby history he was put in' - former England rugby captain Mike Tindall.

It was not just names from the world of rugby who tweeted their sadness at the news, stars from the world of football and athletics also paid their respects.

'Very sad news about Jonah Lomu, such an inspirational sportsman on and off the field' - English sprinter Andrew Pozzi.

'Gutted to hear the passing of @JONAHTALILOMU a sporting legend gone too soon!' - England and Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland.

'RIP Jonah Lomu. Im not a big rugby fan but watching this guy was something else' - Hull City defender Curtis Davies.

While Brazil World Cup winner Cafu, said: 'Thoughts and pray for the family of Jonah Lomu, a big hug from Cafu. A terrific athlete and champion. Rest in peace.'

He was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame in 2007 and the IRB Hall of Fame four years later. In an interview with Sportsmail's Oliver Holt before the tournament in August, Lomu talked about his illness, saying he wanted to live to see his sons Brayley, six, and Dhyreille, five, celebrate their 21st birthdays.

'There are no guarantees that will happen, but it's my focus,' he said in the interview. 'It's a milestone that every parent wants to get to. My dad died young and that makes you think.

'I want my boys to be healthy and if they get to 21, they should be fit and healthy and live a normal life.' Despite his illness, Lomu starred at the 1995 World Cup, helping the All Blacks reach the final in which they lost to South Africa.