NEW Widnes Vikings signing and Papua New Guinea international Kato Ottio has died today at the age of 23.

The Rugby League world has been left shocked and in mourning.

Vikings chief executive James Rule said Ottio developed a health issue while at training yesterday.

He died at the Pacific International Hospital in Port Moresby at 2am (4pm UK time).

“We are devastated to learn that Kato Ottio has passed away this afternoon.

"Kato was an incredibly talented player, with a bright future ahead of him in Rugby League.

TRIBUTES: Read what's being said about Kato Ottio

"This news is all the more tragic, because Kato was due to travel to the UK this week to fulfil his dream of playing first-grade Rugby League.

"We had been in regular contact with Kato and were excited to welcome a bright, excited and passionate young man, who had genuine potential for the future.

"Having only learned this morning that Kato had developed a sudden health issue whilst training yesterday, we are in absolute shock to now receive this tragic news.

"We will be liaising closely with his loved ones to offer them our condolences and support at this difficult time.

"Widnes Vikings will of course be looking to celebrate Kato’s life and pay our sincere respects to someone who we believe would have become a hero at our Club.

"Whilst we are coming to terms with this news, and still learning the full facts of this situation, we are unable to comment further at this time.”

Ottio, who was an ever-present in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup as the Kumuls won their group before losing to England in the quarter-finals, was signed by Vikings from Canberra Raiders as a replacement for Corey Thompson.

Denis Betts, Head Coach of Widnes Vikings, says: “To receive this tragic news is heart-breaking.

"All of us saw at the World Cup the incredible gifts that Kato had, and his potential to forge a great career in Rugby League.

"Moreover, in all of our interactions with him, we found Kato to be a person of great character, who was excited to be following his dreams.

"On behalf of the coaching team, staff and players at Widnes Vikings, I would like to offer our sincere condolences to Kato’s loved ones.”