WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Phil Kingsley Jones, the manager who guided the career of All Blacks winger Jonah Lomu, turning him into rugby’s first global superstar, has died. He was 72.
His death was confirmed Wednesday by his son Kingsley Jones Jr., the former Wales captain who is currently head coach of the Canadian men's team, who said his father had been in poor health since falling at his home. He died Tuesday surrounded by family.
Kingsley Jones Jr., remembered his father as a "comedian, coach and mentor to one of the greatest rugby players the world has ever seen."
As mentor to the young Jonah Lomu and his manager through most of his professional career, Kingsley Jones counselled his protege against accepting lucrative offers from other sports. On Kingsley Jones’ advice, Lomu turned down a seven-figure offer to play for the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL before appearing at the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
His performances at that tournament and afterwards made him one of the first stars of rugby with a truly global profile.
"What he did for Jonah Lomu was groundbreaking," the former New Zealand Maori rugby captain Errol Brain told Fairfax Media. "He was the pioneer who turned Jonah into rugby’s first global superstar all while keeping him grounded and connected to what was important, which was our region.
"Such was the impact that many of the young ones coming through today still look up to him and are aware of Jonah’s legacy."
Kingsley Jones later coached the Tonga national team into the 1999 Rugby World Cup.
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