Rugby legend Jonah Lomu has died in Auckland, aged 40, after a long battle with kidney disease.
Former All Blacks doctor John Mayhew said in a statement Lomu died unexpectedly 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” Mayhew 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.”
Lomu began his rugby career in Rugby Sevens in 1994, then moved into XVs playing in the historic 1995 World Cup final against South Africa. His barnstorming try against England in the semi-final has been named the greatest moment in rugby history.
He had a kidney transplant in 2004 and continued playing at an international level until 2007.
Lomu's record in rugby still stands him as one of the greats. He was the youngest All Black to make his Test debut in 1994 aged just 19 years. He won a Commonwealth Games gold medal with the All Black7s in 1998. He played 63 Tests for New Zealand scoring 37 tries and still holds the record, in partnership with South Africa's Brian Habana, for the most tries -- 15 -- in a Rugby World Cup.
He was however never to win a Rugby World Cup, coming closest in 1995 in the classic final against the Springboks -- a match now immortalised in the film 'Invictus'.
Lomu's body rejected the kidney transplant after seven years, in 2011, and he had been hoping for a second transplant.
While he had been battling with this illness for some time, his death has come as a shock to the rugby community.
Lomu had been in the UK to watch the All Blacks win the Rugby World Cup, and had then visited Dubai with his family on his return to New Zealand.
Another beautiful day in Paradise called DubaiNovember 15, 2015
There has been an immediate outpouring of sadness and tributes from New Zealand Rugby and the broader rugby community reflecting what a giant of the game Lomu was.
NZR CEO Steve Tew: "We're all shocked and deeply saddened at the sudden death of Jonah Lomu....— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) November 18, 2015
NZR CEO Steve Tew: "....We're lost for words and our heartfelt sympathies go out to Jonah's family....— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) November 18, 2015
NZR CEO Steve Tew: "....Jonah was a legend of our game and loved by his many fans both here and around the world."— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) November 18, 2015
I am so, so devastated to hear of the passing away of @JONAHTALILOMU The greatest superstar and just a fabulous human being. Deeply saddened— Jonny Wilkinson (@JonnyWilkinson) November 18, 2015
Australian Rugby legends have spoken of the man they knew.
Former Wallaby and fellow World Rugby Hall Of Fame inductee, Tim Horan, told Fox Sports that the man would be remembered for who he was off the field as well as on it.
"He was a kind man, a big family man. (It's) a huge legacy he has left on the game and a massive footprint he has put globally for the sport of Rugby," he said.
Joining in the tributes was former Wallaby captain George Gregan who said he was in total shock, having sat with Lomu at the World Cup final and thought he looked well.
"He looked the best I'd seen him in years," he said.
"He was a gentle giant but when he went on to the field he had a great way of inspiring the team that he played with. More importantly, he was just a real gentleman and a great example of what the game of Rugby is all about," said Gregan.
The Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver has extended the ARU's condolences to New Zealand Rugby and the broader New Zealand community.
“I speak on behalf of the entire Australian Rugby community in expressing our deep sadness today after the passing of one of our game’s greatest ever players,” said Pulver.
“There will never be another Jonah Lomu. He was Rugby’s first genuine superstar and as well as being an extraordinary Rugby player he was also an exceptional man who gave everything to the game and his community in Auckland, "he said.
In preparation for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Lomu had made an emotional documentary returning to South Africa 20 years on from the 1995 tournament.