19 Nov 2015

Sport: "The whole of Tonga is mourning" for Jonah Lomu

1:17 pm on 19 November 2015

The Tonga Rugby Union says the whole country is in mourning after the death of Jonah Lomu.

The 40 year old collapsed and died at his home yesterday morning not long after returning home from Dubai where he was holidaying after attending the Rugby World Cup in the UK.

He burst onto the global stage at the 1995 World Cup and scored 37 tries in 63 tests for the All Blacks.

Jonah Lomu in action RWC 1995

Jonah Lomu in action RWC 1995 Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Lomu's parents were Tongan and the President and Chair of the Tonga Rugby Union, Epeli Taione, says his death is being felt hard in the country.

"It's a very sad day for rugby as a whole. I think the whole of Tonga is in mourning at the moment. They've lost one its favourite sporting sons and a huge icon worldwide. While we're very proud for Jonah and everything that he's given back to rugby and especially Tonga we are very sad that it is quite young and to be taken away so young it's devastating for all Tongans".

Epeli Taione was a part of the 'Ikale Tahi squad at the 1999 World Cup but says he's grateful he never had to try and tackle him.

"We were playing New Zealand down in Ashton Gate [and] I didn't get the chance to get on the field to play against him - it was just Barbarians rugby playing with him and also the World XV in Malaysia in 2010, but I never had the chance to play against him. I was always twice on the same side and I think I was one of the lucky ones to be on the same field with him rather than against him and to see the reaction worldwide it speaks volumes to the contribution the guy has done and immensely proud to be Tongan".

Tonga Rugby Chair Epeli Taione at a Rugby World Cup 2015 event.

Tonga Rugby Chair Epeli Taione at a Rugby World Cup 2015 event. Photo: Photosport