Jarrod, aged 38, played for London Irish between 1998 and 2002 after a successful career in his native New Zealand. He was an All Black trialist between 1993 and 1995, represented the New Zealand Maoris between 1996 and 1998 and played at Super 12 for Auckland Blues in 1996 and Wellington Hurricanes in 1997/98.
In June 2002 Jarrod was advised that he was suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a form of Motor Neurone Disease (MND) a fatal for which there is no known cure. However, Jarrod confronted his illness and, sisappointed by the lack of awareness of MND and how to combat it, he founded the Jarrod Cunningham SALSA Foundation in March 2003 with the aim of providing hope, education and inspiration for fellow sufferers of ALS. With the help of friends and family in the United Kingdom and New Zealand, the Foundation organised a series of successful fund-raising events whose proceeds Jarrod used to raise awareness and explore new therapies to fight his illness. In November 2004 he was awarded the IRB Spirit of Rugby award in recognition of his work in raising awareness of the disease through his profile as a sportsman, as well as his own remarkable efforts to combat its effects.
He returned to New Zealand in December 2004 and, over the past 36 months, all the courage and determination that Jarrod displayed on the rugby pitch has been in evidence off it as he maintained a positive outlook in the face of the unrelenting slow but steady progress of his illness.
Damian Hopley, chief executive of the Professional Rugby Players' Association, said: "Jarrod was an inspiration to all those who were fortunate enough to meet him, and the entire rugby community has lost a great player and great friend.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, team-mates and friends."