Highlanders set to have Thorn in their side

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 09/10/2012
Brad Thorn
COMING BACK TO NZ: Brad Thorn will join the Highlanders for next season's Super Rugby competition.

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Brad Thorn could be set to return to New Zealand and join the Highlanders for next season's Super Rugby competition.

Although Thorn's agent, Brett Gamble, maintains he has not yet sealed a deal with the Highlanders it appears likely coach Jamie Joseph has done enough to secure the former All Blacks and Crusaders lock for 2013.

If Mosgiel-born Thorn, who was expected to finish his career in New Zealand after helping win last year's World Cup final, joins the Highlanders he will be 38.

"He recently said to me he's doesn't feel 37 at all," Gamble said. "He feels more like 30 but definitely not 25 anymore. He's still very fit, spends lots of time in the gym.

"He's still very keen and realises at some time in the future he won't be able to do this anymore - so while he can, he wants to."

After France were beaten 8-7 in the final on October 23 Thorn headed to Japan to play for the Fukuoka Sanix Blues club and was expected to wind down his career there before retirement.

But a call from Leinster coach Joe Schmidt resulted in Thorn taking his family to Ireland where he won a Heineken Cup winner's medal in May to accompany his World Cup, NRL and State of Origin titles.

Gamble said Thorn took a one-month break after winning the European title and then returned to Japan in July.

His Japanese club duties are likely to end in January which will offer him a brief window to recuperate before heading to Dunedin.

The Highlanders' opening match is against the Chiefs on February 22.

Thorn's options are to either take a break from playing for about six months, look to play in Europe or seek a Super Rugby deal.

He seems destined to choose the latter with the Highlanders where he'd be joined in the pack by All Blacks Andrew Hore and Tony Woodcock.

Although the chances of adding to his 59 test caps appear remote with Luke Romano and Brodie Retallick working alongside Sam Whitelock and Ali Williams, it would be foolhardy to discount him if All Blacks coach Steve Hansen fires out an SOS next year.

"There's still some water to go under the bridge on this (the Highlanders offer). It's certainly not (a done deal) at the moment," Gamble said.

"But he is still a very competitive guy who wants to play competitive rugby. He's got a lot of options around him."

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