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Former Maori All Blacks and Super Rugby hooker John Akurangi is fighting for his life in an Italian hospital.

Akurangi, who played prop and hooker for the Blues (1996), Crusaders (1997) and Chiefs (1999), is undergoing an operation on his heart in Milan, with friend Billy Ngawini telling Fairfax media that the 45-year-old was suffering a torn aorta.

Originally from Hastings, he has been living in Italy coaching rugby since 2010 but the condition was only recently noticed when he was in Dubai playing Sevens rugby.

It was initially believed to be dehydration before the more serious problem was uncovered.

After his rugby career in New Zealand, Akurangi was a business consultant in Australia, where he played a bouncer on the hit show Underbelly.

He secured a coaching job in Milan in 2010.

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