French fans at the RBS 6 Nations game between France and Scotland at Stade de France paid their last respects to former All Black, ASM Clermont Auvergne and Bayonne back row forward Sione Lauaki.
A former Challenge Cup semi-finalist with Clermont in 2011 was forced out of rugby in 2012 with kidney and cardiovascular problems and died at the age of 35 at the weekend. He won 17 caps for New Zealand and 11 for the Pacific Islanders.
The death of the Tongan-born star was announced by his former club, Waikato Chiefs: “We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Sione Lauaki this morning. The formidable forward first debuted for the Chiefs in 2004, playing 70 games for us before departing New Zealand in 2010 to continue his career in France.
“In addition to his on-field heroics, Sione was a much loved and respected team-mate. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sione's family and friends and with the entire Chiefs whanau (family) as today we have lost a brother. Rest in peace Sione, always a Chief.”
Lauaki joined Clermont in 2010 and played in five of their six European Cup pool games that season as they finished as runners-up to Leinster. That earned them a ticket into the Challenge Cup and he featured in the semi-final defeat to Stade Francais Paris.
He then joined Bayonne the next season and played four times in the Challenge Cup for them, scoring a try in a 25-11 defeat against Wasps at Adams Park. In February, 2012 during routine tests, he was diagnosed with renal failure and cardiovascular problems and the club signed him off for the rest of the season.
There was a minute’s celebration of the life of Joost van der Westhuizen ahead of the game in Paris at the weekend and that was coupled with the memory of Lauaki.