Lomu's future still unknown
November 6, 1999
All Blacks giant winger Jonah Lomu will not be rushed into any quick decision on his future it was revealed by his advisor Phil Kingsley-Jones on Saturday.
Although Bristol are one of a number of interested parties, the proposed signing session with 24-year-old Lomu, who was one of the few All Blacks to come out of the French match with any credit having scored two typically bulldozing tries, here on Saturday seems certain not to take place.
Instead, Lomu is expected to meet Kingsley-Jones for further discussions before travelling to the Millennium Stadium where he will link up with his All Black team-mates to watch the World Cup Final between Australia and France.
There has been frenzied speculation over which path Lomu will choose to take now his All Black contract is on the point of expiry.Contrary to reports, Kingsley-Jones is adamant Lomu has not turned his back on New Zealand and an offer to stay with them is still in the pipeline.
"It is not true," said Kingsley-Jones when asked whether Lomu had rejected a four-year contract with the All Blacks.
"Six clubs have shown interest in signing Jonah, including some from France.
"But he will not be rushed into a decision. Jonah will decide when he is ready."
Bristol officials are remaining tight-lipped, although privately it has been suggested that club owner Malcolm Pearce will not be in Cardiff to meet with Lomu ahead of today's game. Multi-millionaire Pearce undoubtedly has the funds to sanction a move for Lomu, although such an acquisition is fraught with complications.
Apart from almost certainly busting their salary cap, Lomu's overseas registration would also mean coach Bob Dwyer would have to leave out either former Springbok fly-half Henry Honiball or Argentinian scrum-half Agustin Pichot from his team once the World Cup has been completed.
Dwyer was completely non-plussed when quizzed about Lomu's impending move following his side's 29-19 defeat by Northampton on Friday night.
"It would be astonishing if it happened without me being notified," said Dwyer.
"And I know nothing about Jonah moving here."
The club's players were equally in the dark and chief executive Nick de Scossa hinted that talks with Lomu had not gone beyond the preliminary stage. While his future may not be finalised today, Lomu will come under pressure to make a firm decision.
Kingsley-Jones has already ruled out a cross-code switch to Leeds, who wanted the player to play union for the Tykes and league for the Rhinos. Auckland Warriors have put forward a deal which would see the player switch to the 13-man code for the next two seasons, then revert back to union in time for the 2003 World Cup in Australia.
Even the NFL have expressed an interest in Lomu crossing the Pacific and moving to their oval ball code in America. Second Division Worcester pitched in with a bid a fortnight ago, their current status not proving a financial bar courtesy of their owner Cecil Duckworth, who has pumped a small fortune into the Sixways club.
Lomu is the most marketable property in the game and any club signing him will bank on a huge surge in interest and increased numbers coming through the turnstiles. Bristol attracted just 3,500 for their clash with Northampton last night but would hope to at least double that figure if Lomu were to sign. His arrival in England would also be welcomed by Bristol's rivals as supporters turn out to watch the man famously described as 'a freak' by Will Carling strut his stuff across the country.
In the latest edition of Ask John, John Griffiths answers queries about Barbarians socks, bi-lingual referees and Lions who weren't Lions
"Here is the line-up I believe will take to the field on Saturday, let the abuse commence." Tom Hamilton has a punt at the Lions' starting XV for the first Test in his latest Tour Diary
"Drafting former Lions heroes and rising stars into your side at short notice may make for great copy but it does not make for a great side." Graham Jenkins on the lesson from the Lions' first loss