London Irish approach Lomu
November 9, 1999

London Irish coach Dick Best has confirmed he has made a formal offer for All Blacks wonder winger Jonah Lomu.
The former England coach met for ``tentative'' talks with Lomu's agent Phil Kingsley Jones and is expecting to hold more negotiations over the coming weeks.

``We have had talks with Phil Kingsley Jones during the last week,'' confirmed Best.

``We are always exploring possibilities and we have made an offer to bring Jonah to London Irish.

It now appears London Irish are battling it out with Bristol for the giant winger's signature. The 24-year-old superstar has been the subject of weekend reports that he had signed a £1.1million two-year deal with Bristol.

Bristol chief executive Nick de Scossa confirmed on BBC Radio Bristol on Monday morning that the club had been in discussions with the player despite denials over the weekend that talks had progressed further than an enquiry with the player's agent, Phil Kingsley Jones.

Best said talks with Lomu has been tentative.

``Jonah has a number of opportunities available to him but we think we have made a good offer.''

Best dismissed suggestions that the wage cap of #1.8million ruled out any chance of bringing the giant winger to English shores.

``London Irish are well within the wage cap and the offer we have made to Jonah would keep us within that limit,'' he said.

``We don't discuss contractual details but we would still be well within the limit even with his salary taken into account.''

However, the Exiles will have to make an adjustment next year when the cap is reduced to £1.6million but Best is prepared to compensate to land the All Black.

And Best is unconcerned that with the game precariously balanced on a financial knife-edge, such a precedent could cause problems for clubs.

``Contracts run out next year so the salary level will be reduced anyway. The salary cap is set at a sensible level and it is up to the clubs to manage their own financial affairs,'' he said.

``But at this stage we have only made an offer and we have only held talks. If we get Jonah Lomu to London Irish then great, but if we don't then so be it.''

Irish's Premiership rivals Bristol are also chasing Lomu's signature, as are rugby league club Wakefield.

Whilst Bristol Rugby waits to discover whether their offer to Jonah Lomu is accepted, Club Chairman Malcolm Pearce has broken his silence over the affair to explain what the club is offering the world's most famous player and also how he believes it would be possible to sign him within the wage cap limit.

And he's revealed the role of All Black legend Frank Bunce in helping with the Bristol bid."We have made it perfectly clear to his agent that Jonah would be made most welcome at our club. I believe that Frank Bunce, who so much enjoyed his brief time with Bristol, has convinced his friend Jonah that all the very best in British rugby is here in Bristol."

"His decision will not be about money alone, but about quality of life in a convivial, professional environment. We understand that many clubs have made offers to him and we are currently awaiting a response to ours."

"I must make it perfectly clear that we will adhere to the salary cap guidelines. After all, we were instrumental in ensuring a cap was put in place in the first place. The reason we are able to make our offer to Jonah is that at the start of the season, unlike many Premiership Clubs, we had very few players under contract and so were able to negoitiate reasonable salaries with the best possible players."

"Jonah obviously would be able to generate income off the field and unrelated to the game, as do so many in the sport. That must surely be accepted by those responsible for ensuring that the principle of the cap is maintained," said Mr Pearce.

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