New Zealand says farewell to rugby's Jonah Lomu

A memorial event took place at Auckland's major rugby stadium.
By Ed Adamczyk  |  Dec. 1, 2015 at 9:58 AM
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AUCKLAND, New Zealand, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- New Zealand All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu, who died at age 40, was laid to rest Tuesday after a memorial service in an Auckland rugby stadium.

The private service at a Mormon church in his hometown of Mangere, a suburb of Auckland, was preceded by an emotional scene at Eden Park National Stadium, the spiritual home of New Zealand rugby. Thousands attended the stadium service, where the haka, a traditional Maori war dance adopted by the country's rugby fans as a pre-game ritual, was performed in Lomu's honor as his casket entered the stadium.

Another service was held Saturday to acknowledge his Tongan ancestry.

Lomu died Nov. 18 after a nearly 20-year battle with nephrotic syndrome, a kidney ailment.

He achieved fame and a reputation for gentlemanly conduct after a hardscrabble youth in Auckland's slums. He was a regular of the All Blacks, New Zealand's national rugby team, the name identifying its signature uniform. He revolutionized the rugby winger's position and became the sport's first international star.

At the private service Tuesday, his sons Brayley, 6, and Dhyreille, 5, met the audience in black shirts bearing the number 11, their father's uniform number. Lomu was buried in Manukau Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Auckland.

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