Flying winger and New Zealand great Jonah Lomu dies aged 40

‘I don’t have any regrets. Everything that I achieved in rugby I cherished’

All Blacks great Jonah Lomu, who revolutionised wing play to become rugby union's first global superstar, dies in Auckland at the age of 40. Video: Reuters

 

Former New Zealand rugby union international Jonah Lomu has died at the age of 40.

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 a rare kidney disease — but the news came as a shock.

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

“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.”

Auckland-born Lomu burst onto the global stage at the 1995 World Cup as a 19-year-old and is best remembered for scoring seven tries in four matches in that tournament, including four in the semi-final against England in Cape Town.

He played for several domestic teams in his homeland, Auckland Blues, Chiefs and Hurricanes, North Harbour, Counties Manukau and Wellington — and also had a stint in Wales with Cardiff Blues, for whom he played 10 matches.

Lomu retired from the game in 2007, the year he was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame. He also joined the IRB Hall of Fame four years later.

New Zealand prime minister John Key was quick to take to social media and pay tribute to Lomu, who was in the United Kingdom for the recent Rugby World Cup — which was won by the All Blacks.

Jonah Lomu tributes

Mr Key tweeted: “Deeply saddened to hear of Jonah Lomu’s unexpected passing this morning. The thoughts of the entire country are with his family.”

Others were quick to acknowledge the significant contribution of Lomu to the game.

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.”

Jonny Wilkinson, who kicked England to victory in the 2003 World Cup, said: “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 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.”

The 1995 World Cup was the breakthrough tournament for Lomu, who had come to the selectors’ attention the previous year and made his debut aged only 19, breaking a record that had stood for 90 years as their youngest Test player.

He was a surprise selection in the squad for 1995 with only two caps, but by the end of the tournament he was probably the most famous rugby player in the world, despite the All Blacks losing the final to the Springboks.

He scored seven tries in the tournament, including four in the 45-29 semi-final defeat of England. Lomu’s 15 World Cup tries stood alone as the highest tally until they were equalled by South Africa’s Bryan Habana at this year’s tournament.

Lomu’s rise to international prominence in South Africa helped take the game to a global audience it had not previously reached.

“What it meant for rugby, that World Cup changed everything,” Lomu told the Guardian in August. “When I look at it now I understand my impact more. When they show clips of me on the TV, my sons turn and look at me. They have grown up as the sons of Jonah and it’s a daunting task trying to explain to them what I achieved.

“I don’t have any regrets. Everything that I achieved in rugby I cherished. I was in a World Cup final in South Africa against South Africa when a country became one. As Francois Pienaar [the Springboks captain] said: ‘It was not 80,000 in the stadium it was 44 million.’”

- Additional reporting The Guardian, agencies

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.