Irish rugby players, both current and past, have been paying tribute to world rugby icon Jonah Lomu since news of his tragic death in Auckland broke earlier today. Here are some of the quotes and tweets.
BRIAN O’DRISCOLL: “Really awful news to wake up to this morning. Jonah was rugby’s first real superstar. Thoughts are with his family.
“I remember in that game (Ireland v New Zealand in 2001) being left one-on-one with him. There was inevitability about what was going to happen. I was only five or six yards out from the line and I knew that I was only going to be a road bump. Someone else was going to have to come in and finish the job off.
“Once they got the ball into Jonah’s hands, against someone that was 5ft 10in, simple physics would tell you there is only going to be one winner. He ran over the top of me and scored a try and that was part of their comeback.
“He was a freak of rugby player, but an absolute gent off the pitch and someone you would really love your kids to look up to…a real superstar of the game that had all the qualities you would hope to have in a hero.
“The antithesis of brash. I don’t know if he would be as outgoing as he was forced to be. He was a very shy person and had to give a lot of himself. Because, realistically, he was the first big superstar.
“In recent years you see Richie McCaw and Dan Carter starting to fit that mold, but really not touching on his status. It’s a shock to think that, at 40 years of age, he’s gone.”
KEITH WOOD: “Almost heartbroken actually is the phrase that comes into it. I knew Jonah pretty well. I played against him a couple of times, got to meet him a lot over the years. Sat on the bench in that 1995 (World Cup) game in when he steamrolled Ireland long before he streamrolled England (at the semi-final stage).
“It’s just awful news. 40 years of age. He’s been fighting manfully the kidney complaint for 13 or 14 years and it’s been very, very tough for him. Absolutely gutted I have to say, a lovely guy. I’d been in contact with him over the World Cup and it’s too sad and too soon.
“I was a couple of years older than Jonah. I remember sitting on the bench (in 1995) and watching this devastating display of skill, speed and power. And Paul Burke, the Ireland sub out-half, famously there was an injury in the backs and he’s saying, ‘I’m not going on, I’m not going on’.
“It was a bit of a joke for the fact that this guy was just destroying the game. He absolutely catapulted the game onto the world stage.
“There was a couple of great lines after that from his own humility. He was so extraordinary in that World Cup yet he said, ‘yeah, it was great to part of something great with South Africa winning the World Cup on their own turf’.”
TOMMY BOWE: “Very shocked to hear the sad news about Jonah Lomu. Our sport has lost its first real superstar. RIP Jonah.”
ANTHONY FOLEY: “Can’t believe the news that Jonah Lomu has passed. RIP. Thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
JOHN MULDOON: “When someone shapes your sport and changes the way the game is played, you know they’re something special and unique. Very sad. RIP Jonah.”
GORDON D’ARCY: “Jonah, a legend of the game and a lovely man off the field. He will be missed. Thoughts with his family. RIP Jonah.”
PETER STRINGER: “So sad to hear that Jonah Lomu has passed away. He was a superstar that changed our game forever and above all, a true gentleman. RIP Jonah.”
GEORDAN MURPHY: “Saddened to hear of the passing of one of the greatest, Jonah Lomu. A legend, a game changer and a top bloke. Thoughts are with his family.”
CIAN HEALY: “His legacy has and will continue to shape the game. A true hero of the sport! Deepest sympathy to his family and his All Blacks family.”
TOM COURT: “To have such a positive influence on not just his sport but so many people’s lives is an amazing achievement and a beautiful legacy. RIP Jonah.”
SHANE BYRNE: “So sad Jonah Lomu has died. Played him in 2000, hardest ‘attempted’ tackle I ever made! Gent off the field. One of a kind. RIP Jonah.”