Lomu refuses to sign book

WINGER Jonah Lomu has angered some of New Zealand’s most famous rugby union players for refusing to sign a book commemorating the 100 greatest All Blacks.

Lomu, ranked 23 among the top 100, was one of only three living All Blacks who failed to sign.

Each limited edition of the book Tribute carries the signatures of 59 of the 100 players author Paul Verdon considers New Zealander's greatest players.

Thirty-eight are dead, including one who died during the book's preparation, and one could not be found.

Lomu and All Black lock Andy Haden, who is remembered for a dive from a lineout which helped gain New Zealand a match-winning penalty against Wales in 1978, refused to sign.

Tori Read, an All Black lock from 1935-37 and now aged 90, signed the book as did legendary fullback Don 'The Boot' Clarke who is ill with cancer.

Johnny Simpson signed 500 copies although he is blind. His wife, Iris, put her finger at the point where Johnny was to sign and they both did a great job," Verdon said.

"Most of the guys just fell over themselves to help. They saw it as a great exercise, particularly the old guys who were flattered somebody was interested in them to recall their activities and achievements."

Verdon said he was unsure why Lomu had refused to co-operate. The wing, the highest-paid rugby player in the world, has his own lucrative line of limited edition memorabilia and may have been disappointed with his 23rd place in the rankings, he said.

Several famous All Blacks had contacted Lomu's agent, Welshman Phil Kingsley-Jones, and asked him to encourage Lomu to participate.

"They talked to the manager about the All Black heritage. He later agreed to ask Jonah again, but the result was still the same," Verdon said.

The book went to the tribute with the words "player declined to participate" where Lomu's signature could have been.

Colin Meads was ranked New Zealand's finest player.

Meanwhile, Bryan Hyland (UCC) will coach the Munster U21s next season with Phillip Danaher (Garryowen) as his assistant. Niall O'Shea (Shannon) will continue as team manager.

Hyland takes over from Pat Cross who is taking a break from representative coaching although he intends staying involved at other levels.

Cross was coach to the Munster squad for the past four seasons and for three of those he also coached the national under-21 side.

Munster chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald, paying tribute to work done, said: "Pat Cross did a superb job for Munster at what is a very important level. On behalf of Munster rugby I would like to thank him for his hard work and commitment."

Hyland will assume overall charge of the squad, having spent two seasons as assistant to Cross. Danaher steps up to be assistant coach, after working last season with the Munster U21 management in an advisory capacity along with Tom Murphy (Cork Con) a role that involved the identification of possible players for the U21s.

Murphy continues in that role with Mick Lynch (Bruff) taking over from Danaher.

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