Rugby League: Lomu 'to sign for Leeds' claim

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The Independent Online
Rugby League

DAVE HADFIELD

Jonah Lomu, the All Black winger who shot to stardom in the rugby union World Cup, will join the Leeds rugby league side, a leading New Zealand newspaper claimed today.

The New Zealand Herald said the deal, believed to be worth pounds 2.3m, had already been done. The Auckland Warriors, who have pursued Lomu for more than a year, have pulled out of negotiations. Ian Robson, the Warriors chief executive, gave some support to the Leeds theory, saying he believed they were the front runners for Lomu's signature.

"It is my gut feeling. They are a very rich club and are desperate to beat Wigan," he said.

The Keighley Cougars coach, Phil Larder, is setting out on an 11-week dash to get England ready for the centenary World Cup in October. As the most capable and experienced coach available, Larder was the obvious choice for such a pressurised task. He will be assisted by two of the most impressive young coaches in the business, Andy Goodway, of Oldham, and Castleford's John Joyner, with the former Hull Kingston Rovers chairman Phil Lowe, as team manager.

"I believe we have got the most experienced and exciting coaching team available," Larder said. "Although we have been drawn in a tough group in the World Cup with Australia, Fiji and South Africa, I'm sure we can make a big impression."

He is well equipped to hit the ground running, which England will need to do if they are to make up for lost time in their World Cup preparations. He will name a 40-man squad and begin training sessions this week.

Larder could have been Reilly's successor last year, had it not been for his insistence that a New Zealander, Graham Lowe, should not be involved with the national side. As it was, Ellery Hanley was appointed as Great Britain and England coach and his decision at the end of last season to sign up with the Australian created the vacancy that was filled yesterday. Even Larder's belated elevation is tinged with controversy, with Keighley complaining that they have not been approached by the League for permission to borrow him.

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