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Thorn: We live for days like these

WHEN it comes to knockout rugby - simply put - there's no tomorrow.

That's the message from a man who has scaled the heights of the world game and yet still remains driven.

Meet Brad Thorn, Leinster's most recent recruit.

At the ripe old age of 37, most sportspeople begin the great unwind, as the body clock tells you with ever increasing frequency to relent; that the stiffness is too sore and the mental demands of the game too taxing after, possibly, a quarter century or more of action.

Not Thorn. The World Cup winning legend still retains the hunger and the ambition to drive on. He is impressed not least by his new team-mates but by the environment where he currently resides. Life, he says, is good.

Tomorrow evening, though, will start a new and exciting chapter in the Thorn tale, which has taken him across continents from Australasia to Asia and now Europe.

"I have been fortunate across my career to play at a high level and to be honest I never thought that I'd get the chance to play Heineken Cup rugby," the lock reflected ahead of the visit of Cardiff.



RIVALRY

The last fortnight has seen him experience the volume of the RDS and the rivalry of an interprovincial derby. This weekend is an altogether new task with the visit of the highly talented Cardiff squad; laced with ex-All Blacks, Grand Slam winners and a club with strong rugby traditions.

It hasn't taken Thorn long to settle into his new surrounds. "My wife is happy. The kids are settled. It has been a wonderful life experience for us so far."

So far, so good. He thought that the HMS Europe had sailed past him at this point in his life, but when the opportunity came to sample Heineken Cup rugby, it was too good an opportunity to turn down.

The last few weeks have been about finding his feet, on and off the field. Nearly a month has passed on this odyssey and he is steadily gathering momentum.

"If I'm honest, fitness wise, I was blowing a bit hard in that Ospreys game. But having gotten some more minutes under my belt against Munster last weekend, I'm feeling back to normal.

"I've been really impressed with all of the guys; coaches and players. It's a really professional environment here in Leinster and it has been a real challenge to adapt to a new culture. But it's one of life's good challenges.

"To think that there are going to be over 50,000 supporters in the Aviva tomorrow for a club game is incredible and it just goes to show how important the team are to the supporters. That level of support backing you is the reason why you play pro sport.

"There's a lot of competition in the squad across all of the positions so it will be interesting to see what team the coaches go for. The whole week has been exciting and it's a privilege to play for this team. Days like tomorrow are the reason why we're here."

His stay may be a short one, but he is ready to scale new heights. This week, like the last, sees his return to old haunts; namely Thomond Park last Saturday and the Aviva Stadium (the site of the old Lansdowne Road) tomorrow.

"Even though this is a new experience for me at the moment, I've been a part of big rivalries going back to my (rugby) league days. On my Leinster debut a fortnight ago, I recognised a lot of Welsh players whom I had played against for the All Blacks.

"And last week there were a large number of Ireland internationals in the Munster team who I also would have played against. Then, tomorrow, there are more Welsh internationals and a few New Zealanders as well in their ranks.

"Cardiff are a very strong tam. We've watched a fair bit of them and they've got some big aggressive ball carriers and some powerful strike runners out in their backs. It will be a big test for us."

What are the directives for success?

"Attitude is key," Thorn reflects with a thoughtful pause. "You have to put everything on the line when it comes to knockout rugby. The way we have to approach Saturday evening -- and I suppose you could also say the rest of the season -- is that we have a series of Grand Finals ahead of us.

"It was the same for the All Blacks during the Rugby World Cup once we had gotten past the round robin phase of pool matches. As soon as the Argentina game came around we knew that, as a group, we had to lay everything on the line.

"There's no tomorrow. It can all be over by Monday morning and you obviously don't want that to be the case.

"Home advantage is definitely a positive for us because I've seen how much the Leinster support gets behind the team. I hope that they enjoy it because we'll all be doing our best to get the win for them."

A new journey. A new challenge. But the will to win still inspires.


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