Rugby: Ex-All Black and Samoa flanker Dylan Mika dead at 45

WELLINGTON (AFP) - New Zealand rugby was reeling on Wednesday (March 21) at the sudden death of former All Black and Samoa flanker Dylan Mika at the age of just 45.

"It's with sadness we confirm that the former All Black & Manu Samoa star passed away suddenly," New Zealand Rugby tweeted late on Tuesday.

Mika, who played seven Tests for the All Blacks in 1999, was an insulin-dependent diabetic and local media reports said he suffered a heart attack related to the condition.

A statement from his family said he died "suddenly and unexpectedly".

"He was a hugely talented athlete, well-respected in the Samoan community and abroad but just as importantly, to his friends and family a warm, wonderful, and caring man," it said.

His tally of international caps for New Zealand would probably have been higher but he had to serve a stand-down period after representing Samoa in two Tests in 1994-95.

Mika played for the Auckland Blues and Waikato Chiefs in the Super Rugby competition and remained involved in Auckland club rugby after his retirement.