Rugby player

Born: May 12, 1975;

Died: November 18, 2015

JONAH Lomu, who has died aged 40 after a lengthy battle against the rare kidney disease, nephrotic syndrome: was Rugby Union's first global superstar.

When he burst on the world scene as a 19-year-old, straight out of Auckland's Wesley College, he broke the mould. Certainly there had been previous tall wingers, but there had never been one who had the physique of a back five forward – six foot five inches tall, weighing over 17 stones, and who combined that physique with raw pace and power.

The Auchkland-born Lomu, who was of Tongan descent, had started as a number eight, a good one too, but when he switched to the wing – good became great.

He was selected for the New Zealand Under-19 side in 1993, before bursting onto the world stage at the 1994 Hong Kong Sevens, where he proved well-nigh unstoppable. He was promoted to the New Zealand Under-21 side, the "Baby Blacks", before, aged 19 years and 45 days, he won the first of his eventual 63 caps for the All Blacks in an international against France, at Lancaster Park, Christchurch. He was the 941st All Black.

His inexperience on the wing was somewhat exposed by his immediate opponent, the great Emile N'tamack, but the All Blacks' management stuck with him and when the All Blacks arrived in South Africa for the 1995 Rugby World Cup, much work had been done on Lomu's game.

He proved to be the sensation of that tournament, kicking off with a brace of tries against Ireland. However, it was his four-try demolition of England in the semi-final, most notable for him trampling all over poor Mike Catt on one burst to the line, which turned him into a global icon.

Exasperated England captain Will Carling described him as "a freak". However, in the final, the All Blacks never got going, as the Springboks devised a plan to blunt the Lomu threat, on their way to a memorable victory.

Rugby went professional in the aftermath of that World Cup, and Lomu became the game's biggest star. However, in 1996 he was diagnosed with the serious kidney problems which would blight the remainder of his life, and which impacted on his ability to play consistently.

He won a gold medal as a member of the victorious New Zealand Sevens team at the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games. Ten-pin bowler Robert Baird, a member of the Scottish team, still speaks in awe of the experience of sitting next to Lomu at one of the social evenings, at which Lomu leapt to his feet and performed an impromptu Haka.

"He was such a humble, ordinary person – then he did the Haka, Wow!!" is how Baird remembers the evening.

Increasingly his health issues impacted on his ability to play and, after a lengthy period of thrice-weekly dialysis, in 2004 he received a kidney transplant. This enabled him to return to rugby in 2005, but he sustained a serious shoulder injury, which proved problematic.

In 2006 he came to the UK, to play for Cardiff, but a broken ankle, sustained against the Border Rievers again sidelined him. He officially retired from rugby the following year, but he continued to make occasional charity match appearances, as well as a couple of short-lived returns to serious play.

The statistics of Jonah Lomu's career are spectacular. He wore the legendary black jersey with the silver fern 73 times, 63 of those appearances coming in full Tests, between June 1994 and November, 2002; he scored 37 tries for his country, seven of them against Scotland, in six appearances, a total of 185 points.

In all he played a total of 185 first-class games, for Counties Manukau, Wellington, North Harbour, Hurricanes, Blues, Chiefs and Cardiff. His record of 15 Rugby World Cup tries has never been beaten. He was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit and inducted into both the International Rugby Hall of Fame and the IRB Hall of Fame.

He appeared on several New Zealand TV shows and wrote a best-selling autobiography. His kidney transplant failed in 2011, forcing him back to the discipline of dialysis.

Lomu was married three times; firstly to Tanya, a South African, in 1996. They divorced and in 2003 he secretly married Fiona. This marriage failed in 2008, after he had an affair with Nadine Quirk, who became the third Mrs Lomu. He and Nadine, his widow, had two sons Brayley who is six and Dhyreille, a year younger.

His death comes shortly after the Lomu family had returned to their Auckland home, after a family holiday in Dubai, on his way back from media work at the Rugby World Cup in England.

Jonah Lomu was a true global sporting great - long after his premature passing, his tries, particularly the one against England in 1995, when he left Tony Underwood, Carling and Catt scattered in his wake, will be replayed on television and video time and again.