UAE Rugby Federation (UAERF) secretary general Qais Abdulla Al Dhalai has spoken of his sadness following the death of “friend” and “brother” Jonah Lomu.
Nadene Lomu, the wife and manager of the New Zealand rugby great, confirmed the 40-year-old’s death in a statement but did not specify the cause. He had struggled with a kidney illness for 20 years.
Only days ago Lomu and his family had been on holiday in Dubai when travelling back to New Zealand from the Rugby World Cup in England. The Lomus spent time with Al Dhalai and the rugby icon tweeted pictures at Souk Al Bahar and the Burj Khalifa.
“It’s really sad for me, I just can’t express my feelings,” Al Dhalai told 7DAYS. “Jonah and the whole family, with my family, were together [earlier this week in Dubai]. I was talking to Jonah and Nadene on Monday morning while they were at the lounge waiting to take off to Auckland.
“Jonah wasn’t only a close friend but a brother who was always feeling his best moments while with me and so do I.
“No words matter and I will keep kidding, talking, joking, with him in my heart until we both meet again in heaven.”
Born in Auckland to Tongan parents in 1975, Lomu became a worldwide figure when he made his breakthrough at the Rugby World Cup in South Africa in 1995. He scored seven tries in the competition, four of them in the semi-final against England.
He won the first of his 63 Test caps as the youngest ever All Black – against France at the age of 19 years and 45 days – and went on to score 37 Test tries. Although he never won a World Cup, he did win a rugby sevens gold medal at the 1998 Commonwealth Games.
At the 1999 World Cup he scored eight tries in six games, including two in New Zealand’s semi-final loss to France. His record of 15 Rugby World Cup tries was recently matched by South African winger Bryan Habana.
Lomu is survived by his wife Nadene and their young sons Brayley and Dhyreille