Lomu future bleak after refusing offer

News that Jonah Lomu is on the loose is sending barely a tremor through English clubs, unlike eight years ago when the rampaging All Black giant single-handedly destroyed England in the semi-finals of the 1995 World Cup.

On that occasion he ran in four tries and terrorised defences throughout the tournament. Nowadays he does not even spark interest, let alone fear, in this country. Yesterday, Premiership clubs greeted Lomu's rejection of a one-year contract with the New Zealand Rugby Union with barely a flicker of animation. Lomu's kidney problems - he undergoes dialysis three times a week after suffering renal failure - forced him to withdraw from the Super 12 in April after a restricted number of appearances for the Hurricanes.

His planned comeback for his province, Wellington, was abandoned and his future in New Zealand now looks bleak, since his refusal to sign the deal, described by his agent, Phil Kingsley-Jones, as "derisory", means he will not be playing Super 12 next year. It also means his international career is over.

But while the expectation is that Lomu will now look abroad, and in particular to Europe, for employment, the chances of there being any takers, at least in this country, look remote.

Apart from the state of his health, there is the matter of finance. It is unlikely that Lomu, who won the last of his 63 All Black caps against Wales last autumn, will come cheap. The salary cap in the Zurich Premiership will almost certainly rule out anyone coming in with lucrative offers, unless they are prepared to offload other high-earners on their books.

Already a number of clubs, when approached about Lomu's potential availability have shaken their heads and given a polite "not interested" reaction.

The NZRU's deputy chief executive, Steve Tew, confirmed: "We presented Jonah with an offer we believed to be fair and reasonable and dependent on him being well enough to play. That offer has been rejected. We are naturally disappointed."

That is how Lomu may feel as he and his agent wait for offers from elsewhere. The All Blacks coach, John Mitchell, said: "He's a great ambassador for the game and I hope we don't lose him in that role."

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