Taniela Moa dead at 36: Former Tonga Rugby World Cup star passes away suddenly leaving team-mates in shock

TONGA’S Taniela Moa has passed away at the age of 36 leaving shocked team-mates to pay tribute to the Rugby World Cup star.

The versatile half-back won 21 caps for his country between 2011 and 2015.

He shone at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand – starting in the first game of the tournament against the hosts.

Former Tonga skipper Nili Latu said he was stunned to learn of his pal's sudden death following a 'medical emergency'.

He told Stuff: "I only saw him last week, we were shooting the Moana Pasifika video for the season and having a great laugh.

“Now, not knowing it was the last time I would see my brother, it is hard news to take in.''

Scrum-half Moa could also fill in at fly-half and enjoyed successful stints with the Blues and Auckland in New Zealand.

He came close to playing for the All Blacks after he was called up as injury cover in 2008 but he remained eligible for Tonga after never taking the field.

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The versatile Moa could play at scrum-half or fly-halfCredit: AFP

Latu added: "He was a character, that's what stands out. He loves a laugh, and he loves a joke

“But, man, when he pulls on that red jersey he is a different beast.”

Tonga Rugby Union posted a heartfelt message to the ‘legendary great’ on their Facebook page.

It read: “A stalwart of Ikale Tahi Tonga rugby who will now have his name etched among the echelons of the legendary greats. Such sad news to receive about the passing of Taniela Moa.

“We would like to send our love and deepest condolences to his family through this sad and tragic time. May he fly high among God’s army and look over you all.

"Rest in love Nel."

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