Former All Blacks and Chiefs loose forward Sione Lauaki has died aged 35.
Lauaki was diagnosed with kidney and heart problems in 2012, picked up by biological assessments while he was playing for Bayonne in France.
A massive but athletic player, Tonga-born Lauaki played 17 Tests for the All Blacks between 2005 and 2008.
35!? Way too soon!! RIP Sione Lauaki.. 😢😢 Such horrible sad news.. Thoughts & prayers are with his family in this time 🙏🏼— Matt Giteau (@giteau_rugby) February 11, 2017
He also played for Auckland and Waikato in the national provincial championships and the Chiefs in Super Rugby.
Former All Blacks and Chiefs teammates have acknowledged Lauaki's death and expressed their condolences via Twitter.
Blues coach and former All Blacks captain Tana Umaga led the chorus on Sunday morning.
Rest in peace Sione, always a Chief. pic.twitter.com/nDnRTDfrp9— Chiefs Rugby (@ChiefsRugby) February 11, 2017
"Another brother gone! Much love and condolences to his family," Umaga tweeted.
"Damn. It's a sad day today, rest easy dox," Sonny Bill Williams said via Twitter, while another All Blacks teammate, Israel Dagg, also tweeted his condolences.
Sad to hear the passing of @SioneLauaki. Love and prayers to the family.🙏— Israel Folau (@IzzyFolau) February 11, 2017
"Played with but not against (thank goodness ) gone too soon Wax.. rest in peace bruv."
The Chiefs and Panasonic Wild Knights observed a minute's silence before their Brisbane Tens match on Sunday morning, while the Blues' Jerome Kaino has already flown home after the news.
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie paid his respects to Lauaki on Sunday and the side has already allowed his good friend and team captain Liam Messam the chance to fly home early, at the request of the Lauaki family
“There’s a number of guys who played a lot of footy with ‘Wax’, Liam Messam in particular was a great mate of his, so it’s been a pretty upsetting morning.
“We gave Liam the opportunity not to play and head home straight away but he was determined to go and put out a performance for Wax but Liam’s going to go home tonight,"- Dave Rennie
“He’ll play in the quarter-final and that’s probably it.
"There’s a lot of motivating factors.
"Not everyone knows Wax but he played a hell of a lot of footy for the Chiefs and certainly highly respected among his mates and management who have been in this group for a long time and had a lot to do with Wax for a long time.
"It’s terrible news, it’s certainly upsetting and hopefully the boys honoured him in that last round robin pool."