Brad Thorn: Leicester's rugby legend hopes to delay retirement

By Owen PhillipsBBC Sport
Thorn eyes special Twickenham finale

Brad Thorn will not be attempting to disguise his emotions when he finally calls time on a glittering 22-year career.

The 40-year-old Leicester Tigers lock is surviving game by game at the moment, after playing a crucial role in helping his club extend their season against the odds to reach Saturday's Premiership semi-final against Bath.

And, having already managed to postpone his retirement once, the 2011 All Blacks World Cup winner and dual-code bone fide rugby legend would love to bow out at Twickenham in the final - and delay the inevitable tears.

"I am still in the moment but I will not be all brave about this," Thorn told BBC East Midlands Today. "It is something I have been doing since I was six and it's like a friend.

"I feel so lucky and blessed but it would be great to push on for one more game and play at Twickenham. It's a special place to play."

The small matter of Bath stand in Thorn's - and Leicester's - way.

A rugby legend
"I have never seen a man so in love with the game. He is a true rugby legend in both codes. I took a risk when we signed him. We had a lot of injuries and then we signed a 39-year-old who was coming with an injury and everyone raised their eyebrows. But he has been a great signing and we will miss his experience on and off the field."
Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill on Brad Thorn

But the fact Tigers even made the top four is an impressive feat considering their early season struggles when an out-of-form, injury ravaged side were languishing in mid-table. It took a run of eight wins from their last nine games to make it.

"It's been a tough old season," said Thorn. "When I got here there were about 23 injuries and it was backs against the wall. But we have persevered and shown a lot of character as a team and managed to keep going. It feels really good."

Thorn won a host of titles with Brisbane Broncos in rugby league before switching codes and becoming a World Cup winner during a 59-cap All Blacks career.

For all he has achieved, including a Heineken Cup success with Leinster during a short-term stay in 2012, the much-travelled Thorn still appreciates the way he has been accepted by Tigers fans and players.

Brad Thorn in action for the Brisbane Broncos
Thorn played 200 first-grade games for Brisbane Broncos in two spells

The rousing reception he got on his Welford Park farewell when he played his final home game in the win over local rivals Northampton Saints felt "special".

He recalled: "It was really touching and, if I am honest, a bit emotional. For the people of Welford Road to give me that send-off was a special moment. It shows the connection that was there.

"It has been a pretty special year for me. They call it the Tigers family and it is - they are very close-knit and care about the players and club.

"They are really good down-to-earth guys and it suits me and my style. It's been a privilege to play here."

Rugby's man for all seasons
Brad Thorn, the rugby league player, was a one-club man with the Broncos and remains a cult hero in Queensland as a State of Origin hardman, and was an Australian Kangaroos international in the 13-man game.With three Premiership titles to his name, Thorn returned to his native New Zealand to join rugby union side Crusaders and then represent the All Blacks, lifting the 2011 World Cup, returning to rugby league and then back to union to play in Japan, Ireland and England.

But he wants more. Finishing as a Premiership winner at Twickenham would be "gold", but it is his team-mates he will miss the most.

"The biggest thing for me with rugby is the camaraderie and what it means to be part of a team," explained Thorn.

"I love the physical side of the sport and I love to compete - those two things are part of my nature. But the camaraderie is the thing that is special and is the thing I love the most."

Thorn moved to Brisbane in Australia at the age of nine and is returning, with his wife and four children, to take up an off-field role with Super Rugby side Queensland Reds when his Tigers journey ends.

But he will remember his time in England with great fondness.

"I will always have this connection now and that is really cool," he said. "I feel really fortunate to be able to experience this. It's been a privilege. I will remember this as a 70-year-old man."

Brad Thorn scores a try for Leicester against Toulon in the European Champions Cup
Thorn made 15 appearances for Tigers in the regular season, scoring one try against Toulon
Brad Thorn
"Rugby has been like a friend to me. I feel so lucky and blessed."

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