All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu (40) dies following cardiac arrest
Jonah Lomu wanted to be alive to see his sons turn 21, the rugby superstar said in his final big interview, only four months ago as the sporting world mourns his passing following cardiac arrest.
Lomu passed away at the age of 40 on Wednesday morning after a long battle with a rare kidney disease and former All Blacks team doctor John Mayhew has confirmed that the rugby legend died of a heart attack at his home in Auckland.
The wing, who played 63 Test matches for the All Blacks, had suffered from health problems since his retirement from the game in 2002 due to the kidney disease. A kidney transplant in 2004 fixed him for seven and a half years but his body rejected it in 2011.
"My goal is to make it to the boys’ 21sts," he told the Daily Mail in August.
"There are no guarantees that will happen, but it’s my focus.
"It’s a milestone that every parent wants to get to. My dad died young and that makes you think."
I still can't believe the sad news. Love & thoughts go out to Jonahs family #RIPJonah— Dan Carter (@DanCarter) November 18, 2015
Really awful news to wake up to this morning. Jonah was rugby's first real superstar. Thoughts are with his family.— Brian O'Driscoll (@BrianODriscoll) November 18, 2015
So sad to hear about the passing of Jonah Lomu #RIPJonah makes life feel very brittle, thoughts with his family and friends.— Austin Healey (@IamAustinHealey) November 18, 2015
Can't believe the news that #JonahLomu has died. Such a sad day. He single handedly changed the game of rugby. Rugby's 1st global super star— Lewis Moody (@LewisMoody7) November 18, 2015
Tragic news. We have lost one of the best ever to play our game. A great player and a great man. Gone too soon. RIP Jonah Lomu.— Gregor Townsend (@gregortownsend) November 18, 2015
A tweet from New Zealand Rugby chief Steve Tew read: "We're all shocked and deeply saddened at the sudden death of Jonah Lomu."
The New Zealand Rugby tweet from Tew continued: "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, who made his All Blacks debut in 1994, made a significant impact at the 1995 World Cup.
He played for several domestic teams - Auckland Blues, Chiefs and Hurricanes in Super Rugby, as well as North Harbour, Counties Manukau and Wellington.
He also had a stint with Cardiff Blues, for whom he played 10 matches for from 2005-06, before retiring from the game in 2007.
He was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame in 2007 and the IRB Hall of Fame four years later.
Irish rugby legend Brian O'Driscoll has credited Lomu with transforming the game of rugby and admitted that the New Zealander was simply unstoppable at the height of his playing powers and recalled the daunting task of facing the giant winger in memorable clash in 2001.
The home side unexpectedly led the All Blacks 21-7 in the second half, but a comeback led by Lomu ensured the visitors avoided a first-ever defeat to Ireland.
"I remember in that game being left one-on-one with him," he said. "There was inevitability about what was going to happen. I was only five or six yards out from the line and I knew that I was only going to be a road bump. Someone else was going to have to come in and finish the job off.
"Once they got the ball into Jonah's hands, against someone that was five foot 10, simple physics would tell you there is only going to be one winner.
"He ran over the top of me and scored a try and that was part of their comeback.
Many of the sport's big names took to social media to pay tribute to someone who was in the United Kingdom for the recent Rugby 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."
Dan Carter, the recently crowned World Rugby Player of the Year after playing a key role in New Zealand's second successive World Cup triumph, had a touching message on his social media account.
"I still can't believe the sad news. Love & thoughts go out to Jonah's family," he wrote.
"Would of done anything to have played a test with him. Gone way too soon my brother."
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."
New Zealand prime minister John Key was also quick to pay tribute to Auckland-born Lomu - who is best remembered for scoring seven tries in five matches at the 1995 World Cup - including four in the semi-final against England in Cape Town.
Key tweeted: "Deeply saddened to hear of Jonah Lomu's unexpected passing this morning. The thoughts of the entire country are with his family."
The All Blacks winger was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome in 1996 and later had a kidney transplant in 2004 before it failed in 2011.
Here is more Twitter reaction to the news of the death of one of rugby union's greats:
"Deeply saddened to hear of Jonah Lomu's unexpected passing this morning. The thoughts of the entire country are with his family" - New Zealand prime minister John Key.
"Our thoughts are with the @JONAHTALILOMU family tonight. A very special person. @AllBlacks" - former New Zealand captain Sean Fitzpatrick.
"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.
"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" - former Wales fly-half Jonathan Davies.
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