John Key has paid tribute to Jonah Lomu from Manila where he is attending the APEC forum.
He says the pair last met in London a couple of weeks ago at a fundraising dinner where the rugby star talked to the Prime Minister about his hopes and plans for the future.
"He truly is and was a legend of the game," Mr Key told reporters.
He says news of the death has hit him hard and it's a true tragedy.
It was too early to know whether there would be a state funeral or what other plans may be put in place.