Leinster hoping to add Thorn to their side


BRAD THORN has made it clear to Leinster he wants to join on a three-month contract until May. Permission must now be granted by Japanese club Fukuoka Sanix Blues where the World Cup-winning New Zealander just completed the first of a two-season deal.

Thorn turned 37 last week, but proved as recently as October 23rd 2011 in the World Cup final he is a freakishly powerful athlete whose legendary status is already secured in both Rugby Union and Rugby League.

“He has won most trophies in rugby but nothing in the Northern Hemisphere yet, that is something that might interest him,” said Leinster coach Joe Schmidt yesterday.

“Brad is pretty keen to come if it’s possible. That’s the first step. The second step is gaining approval from the IRFU and they have been very good. They can identify the problem themselves that we do have a real shortage in the secondrow.

“That would be something they would agreeable to, as long as we can get the agreement from the Japanese club. We are waiting for some feedback from them.”

When asked when that was likely to happen the coach replied: “Probably in the next week or so as we are working in a tight time frame here.

“We would need him by March to get a three-month contract that covers us for the ERC games as well as the Rabo games.”

Leinster face the Cardiff Blues in the European Cup quarter-final on April 7th. The recent injury crux has made the description “tighthead” and “loosehead” locks very popular of late. It turns out they are very particular positions – though Paul O’Connell, for one, can perform both.

The secondrow injury crisis at Leinster has brought the distinction firmly into the spotlight.

For example, Donncha O’Callaghan was Ireland’s tighthead lock on Sunday, while Bradley Cooper drove behind the Welsh number three Adam Jones.

Nathan Hines did the job for Leinster until leaving for Clermont last summer.

Steven Sykes arrived from South Africa as a replacement but struggled with his fitness, while another new recruit, Damien Browne, has been hampered by a shoulder injury that is taking 10 to 12 weeks to heal. It possibly may not heal at all if he keeps playing, as he expected to do this Thursday against Treviso. Browne is currently the only tighthead lock on the Leinster roster.

“We’ve used Devin Toner there a few times but never against the big French packs,” added Schmidt. “It is a different expectation; it’s really purely a scrummaging thing. For us, we know we get a bit more solidity when Damien Browne is in the scrum for us. That’s the key for us.

“Even the Cardiff pack have Bradley Davies who is a big, strong man. I think he demonstrated that . . . ” Schmidt didn’t finish that sentence but he may have been about to allude to Davies’s ability to hoist Donnacha Ryan over his head and spear him into the turf at the Aviva Stadium, for which touch judge Dave Pearson only recommended a yellow card.

The arrival of Thorn – who played State of Origin for Queensland and represented Australia in League, also picking up 59 All Black caps in Union, while even finding time to take a year out from both codes to backpack around Europe with his girlfriend — would make the need for Leo Cullen’s speedy recovery from a 12 -week rehabilitation process on his operated Achilles less pressing.

“There is not too much Brad Thorn hasn’t achieved in the game of rugby.

“There is a massive respect worldwide in what he brings to a team. That respect obviously extends to Europe, as he has played over here with good success for the All Blacks,” said Schmidt.

If the Japanese pay masters scupper the temporary move, 34-year-old Sebastien Chabal is another high-profile backrower -cum-lock recently available on the open market.

Any interest there, Joe?

“Yeah, I see that he had a bit of a falling out with Pierre Berbizier [Racing Club 92 coach] and he has played secondrow. Would we talk to him? I certainly would never say never. We have confidence in the personnel we have but if we get one more injury we are very, very skinny.”

Kevin McLaughlin, having just returned from a neck injury, was also suggested as an option yesterday but, again, Schmidt puts him in the loosehead bracket. Basically, not much use to Mike Ross at scrum-time when faced with a colossal pack.

Tighthead Locks – Donncha O’Callaghan, Dan Tuohy, Damien Browne, Paul O’Connell (when playing with Ryan); Loosehead Locks – Leo Cullen, Paul O’Connell (when playing with O’Callaghan), Johann Muller, Mick O’Driscoll, Donnacha Ryan.