ZINZAN Brooke has paid tribute to "great friend" and former New Zealand team-mate Jonah Lomu, who has died at the age of 40.

Lomu was in the UK this year for the Rugby World Cup and watched as the All Blacks, who were based in Hurworth and trained at Darlington Arena, were crowned champions for the second tournament in succession.

The wing, who scored 37 tries in 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.

Auckland-born Lomu is best remembered for his impact on the 1995 Rugby World Cup, when, having gone into the tournament with only two caps to his name, he scored seven tries, including four in a devastating display against England in the semi-final.

"He could have played in any position he wanted to on the field," Brooke told BBC Radio 5 live. "It was Laurie Mains who decided to play him on the wing.

"It's amazing what he did in that '95 World Cup. He launched himself on the international scene and changed the way the game was played in an instant.

"He was very calm but you knew you had a force within the team. He was phenomenal.

"When you think of the World Cup you will always go back to Jonah running round or over opponents. You'll always remember the superstar that was Jonah Lomu.

"I'm still in shock now realising a great friend has gone."

Former All Blacks doctor John Mayhew, who also acted as a personal doctor to Lomu, insisted his former patient was in "pretty good shape" prior to his death.

Mayhew told TVNZ's One News: "Jonah has been in pretty good shape, he arrived back from Dubai yesterday and unfortunately suddenly collapsed and died at home this morning.

"He has been a fantastic person and a great friend, I have been his doctor for a long time. It's staggering, a very sad day.

"He's such a warm person, he was so good to so many people, he has no ego."

Lomu 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.

He 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.

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Tackling Jonah Lomu was rarely a one-man job

New Zealand rugby chief executive Steve Tew said: "To lose him so suddenly really knocks you for six.

"He had blistering pace, power and speed. He was a freak of nature. It was a revolution for the game.

"What he did at the 1995 World Cup, when the game was going professional, was great timing for the game."

Scrum-half Justin Marshall, who played alongside Lomu in the 1995 and 1999 World Cups, added: "We were quite happy to get the ball to Jonah and let him have a one on one because most times he'd beat his winger and then God help the full-back.

"No other player had that combination of raw power and speed."

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.

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

The Northern Echo:
Jonah Lomu with the Rugby World Cup trophy during the pre-tournament tour this year

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

Former Wales fly-half Jonathan Davies told BBC Breakfast: "It's tragic and devastating to hear the news; life can be so cruel sometimes.

"He made such an impact on rugby union. When he arrived on the scene, he was absolutely incredible - the size, the speed of the man. It was difficult to take on board.

"He changed the game of rugby union; all the kids wanted to be Jonah Lomu. He was an amazing rugby player and it's very difficult not to think of him when you're watching the All Blacks play. He changed the game forever.

"He was such a gentle man, a lovely man, softly spoken, but on the field an absolute superstar.

"You see the players are getting bigger and bigger but he was the first and I don't think any rugby player will make the impact that Jonah did on the game."

The Northern Echo:
Jonah Lomu leaves four England players in his wake

Former New Zealand captain Sean Fitzpatrick took to Twitter to say: "Our thoughts are with the @JONAHTALILOMU family tonight. A very special person. @AllBlacks."

Dan Carter, who retired from rugby after the All Blacks' World Cup victory, 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."

Cardiff Blues tweeted about the man who played for them in 2005-06: "The All Black in Blue. Rugby's first global superstar... a friend we will miss always #RIPJonah #legend #alwaysablue."