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Recognizing And Paying Tribute To The Legendary Rugby Player La’Auli Michael Niko Jones

Del. Eni F. H. Faleomavaega

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Madam Speaker, I rise today to recognize and pay tribute to the legendary rugby player La'auli Michael Niko Jones. On Monday, I had the privilege to welcome Mr. Jones, his wife Maliena and son Levi to the U.S. Capitol. Known to his fans around the world as Iceman because of the calm and confident manner in which he played the game, but also because of the number of icepacks he needed for injuries, Jones was born in Auckland, New Zealand. He first entered the rugby scene in 1986 as a 20-year old and scored three tries in his debut for the Auckland provincial side against South Canterbury. His breakthrough performance at such a young age was a strong indicator of what lay in Jones' future. Being of Samoan descent on his maternal side, Jones played for Manu Samoa in his first international debut instead against Wales. Since then, his rugby career took off, leading him to become one of the greatest rugby players of all time.

Jones first played for the New Zealand All Blacks in the inaugural World Cup in 1987 and scored the first try of the tournament. As an open side flanker, Jones was well known for powerfully running through the heart of the backline defense and then finding space to offload. With the ball in hand, he had the finesse and judgment of an inside or outside center. His bone crunching tackles on defense were feared by opponents. In a sport in which the individual must exhibit both defensive and offensive skills, Jones exemplified the complete rugby player.

Despite the many accolades he received as a result of his on-field feats, Jones was well known for holding true to his religious beliefs and values. As a devout Christian, and in line with a promise he made to his dying father, Jones never played on Sunday. Staying firm in these convictions, however, sometimes brought criticism from the media and often created problems for the New Zealand Rugby Union. His unwavering beliefs under pressure stand as a testament to his commitment and sacrifice.

Throughout his rugby career, Jones exemplified commitment, sacrifice, and love for education, religion, family and country both on and off the field. He holds a Bachelor of Planning (B. Plan), a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and a Master of Arts (M.A.) from the University of Auckland and in 1997 was honored by his university with a Distinguished Alumni Award. This past weekend, Jones was invited as a special guest to participate in the 14th Annual Ambassador's Shield Match Day, which features a rugby match pitting the New Zealand Ambassador's XV against a combined selection of professional U.S. rugby players in order to celebrate New Zealand culture and raise support for the rugby program at the Hyde Leadership Public Charter School in Washington, DC.