New Zealand rugby legend Jonah Lomu dies at 40

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Jonah Lomu, arguably the biggest sporting figure in New Zealand history, died Wednesday at the age of 40.

The legendary figure was a permanent fixture on the All Blacks national team from 1994 until 2002, when he was forced to retire from rugby due to a rare kidney disease. He helped lead New Zealand to a runner-up finish in the 1995 Rugby World Cup, including scoring four tries in the All Blacks' 45-29 win over England in the semifinal.

Lomu's death was confirmed by John Mayhew, the former team doctor for the All Blacks.

"On behalf of the Lomu family, I can confirm that Jonah Lomu died this morning, most probably about 8 or 9," 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 underwent a kidney transplant in 2004, and had been on dialysis treatment for the last 10 years as a result of nephrotic syndrome.

He scored 37 tries while competing in 63 Tests for New Zealand, and was well known for his incredibly physical style of play that would see him running over - and through - any defender that tried to get in his way. He's perhaps best known for one particular try he scored in the 1995 semifinal against England that was voted the best in World Cup history.

"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."

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New Zealand rugby legend Jonah Lomu dies at 40
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