New Zealand is mourning one of its greatest sporting heroes after the former All Blacks player Jonah Lomu passed away unexpectedly in Auckland on Wednesday, aged 40.

John Mayhew, the former All Blacks doctor, confirmed the news 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 had suffered from health problems since his retirement from playing in 2002 due to the rare kidney disease, Nephrotic syndrome. He had been on dialysis treatment for the past 10 years.

He had recently travelled to the UK for the Rugby World Cup, during which he worked with tournament sponsors.

“We’re all shocked and deeply saddened at the sudden death of Jonah Lomu,” New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said.

“Jonah was a legend of our game and loved by his many fans both here and around the world. We’re lost for words and our heartfelt sympathies go out to Jonah’s family.”

He played in 63 Tests for New Zealand after making his debut in 1994. He scored 37 tries and his physical, often brutal, running game regularly terrorised defences the world over.

The bullocking try he scored against England at the 1995 World Cup will live particularly long in the memory as he swatted away defenders with consummate ease on his way to the line. The effort was this year voted the greatest in World Cup history.

Source: Guardian UK