Jonah Lomu, who became the world’s most famous rugby player while representing New Zealand’s national men’s rugby union team, has died in Auckland at the age of 40.
“We’re all shocked and deeply saddened at the sudden death of Jonah Lomu,” said Steve Tew, the chief executive of the New Zealand Rugby Union. “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.”
Former All Blacks doctor John Mayhew told TV3 News that Lomu died unexpectedly on Wednesday morning, just weeks after traveling to England as a spokesman for Heineken during the Rugby World Cup.
The cause of Lomu’s death was not immediately known, but the rugby superstar has suffered from a debilitating kidney condition called nephrotic syndrome, for which he underwent a kidney transplant in August 2003. The disease halted his rugby career but Lomu eventually made a comeback. Nephrotic syndrome, however, can in some cases still result in death even after receiving a kidney transplant.
Lomu became a role model for young rugby players in New Zealand and across the world after breaking onto the international rugby scene in 1994, and destroying England in the semi-finals of the 1995 World Cup.
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