It is possible New Zealand legend Brad Thorn could be back in Leinster colours next season.
At least he is a target candidate as the Heineken Cup winners seek to strengthen the squad for a further assault on Europe.
The two parties will bid farewell in the aftermath of Sunday’s RaboDirect Pro12 decider against the Ospreys, with Thorn bound for Japan to see out the remaining first leg of his two-year contract with Fukuoka Sanix Blues.
After the personal achievement of becoming the first player to win World Cup, Heineken Cup and Super 15 winner’s medals, he will head back to Asia with warm wishes from his Leinster colleagues and a large, well deserved pay cheque too.
To have won that credit in 12 weeks — he was released by his Japanese employers for the duration of their mid-season break — is a huge tribute to the 37-year-old, who has defied logic to play such quality rugby at the top level for so long.
Yesterday, Leinster’s skills and kicking coach Richie Murphy summed up Thorn’s contribution: “He has been fantastic, he has really added to the team for us. He was brought in for a three-month period and it has paid off for us.”
Speaking of next season, Murphy could give little away given Thorn’s contractual obligations in Japan, but he said: “There is stuff going on in the background regarding next year and who will fill that [second row] position.
“Who knows? It could be possible that Brad ends up being back at a later stage, but he is contracted in Japan and we will be saying goodbye after this game on Sunday. He has been a great influence on the squad and certainly from a Leinster point of view we would be delighted to see him back.”
If it’s not to be Thorn, and Murphy admitted there was only that outside chance of having him back in Dublin, there will be an overseas signing for the second row in Leinster.
“We’re out there looking,” said Murphy, “obviously there are others looking too, second row forwards are hard to come by, we’re looking for as good a player as we can get and it depends on who is available. A tight head lock is our main priority but we’re also looking for a back [in and around the 10/12 axis].”
For now, the focus is on Sunday’s final and both Isa Nacewa and Cian Healy both expect the Ospreys to provide them with a stern test. Nacewa sounded quite fearful, or at least wary, saying: “They are a bit of a bogey team for us with the Magners final before and twice this season. They pumped us in the first game and taught us a thing or two around the breakdown.
“They are a real good side with quality players.
“A final is a final. When they travelled here last time they did a job on us. We have just got to be on our game and twice this year we haven’t so we just have to show up this week.”
Healy also conceded the breakdown was an area with which Leinster had to cope: “When you struggle with a game at the breakdown it’s mostly about where your head’s at and how prepared you are to go in there. I think we have turned the corner in approaching that one; we have done a lot of work on it at training and we now pride ourselves on protecting possession at the breakdown lately, so hopefully we can keep that up.”
Nacewa said concentration would not be a worry in terms of preparing for the game and insisted lessons had been learned from their Magners League final defeat to Munster last season, a week after lifting the Heineken Cup.
“To be honest [last year] things came crashing down pretty quickly; that’s the way our season finished. We’re obviously up on a high at the moment but we have to be realistic about how good the Ospreys are and bring a big game to this one; they’ve won the last six matches and are on a bit of a roll and they’ve had an extra week to recover, so they’re going to be in pretty good shape.”
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