It’s fair to say that the gruff approach of old-school Queensland Reds manager Brad Thorn has divided rugby fans, and there will be plenty of eyebrows following his post-match comments on Friday night.
Thorn’s team were outclassed by the Crusaders in Christchurch, and Thorn explained his pride that a team with multiple “tradies” on board managed to give the Kiwis a decent fight.
“There has been an improvement, but we have to take another step, or a few more steps, because at the end of the day we want to win,” Thorn said.
“The upside is what they do, that’s why they call it money time. The guys brought a lot of fight, they wore the Queensland shirt with pride, clashed but the Crusaders got the job done.
“We went neck and neck, but the merit of the crusaders.”
Earlier this season, almost out of nowhere, Thorn raised his hand to be considered a future Wallabies coach. This prompted fans at other Australian clubs to give him a bit more attention as they tried him out as a Wallabies mentor. Not everyone likes what they see.
While Dave Rennie speaks openly and honestly, it feels like no conversation with Thorn rarely scratches the surface.
He did not clearly explain his reasons for not taking Wallabies lock Lukhan Salakaia-Loto to New Zealand for the quarter-final, and his decision to leave Fraser McReight on the bench until the Crusaders game being almost lost intrigued many.
Of course, he’s had to contend with an outrageous injury list that cost him two world-class players in Taniela Tupou and James O’Connor, and Thorn was optimistic about the opportunities presented to some emerging players in recent weeks.
“Two things go into finals, momentum and the availability of your players, but you’d like to think there’s been real growth in our depth,” Thorn said.
“Lawson Creighton is a tradie, still does a few cashier jobs, and he has 10 against a World Cup star player in (Richie) Mo’unga.
“Matt Faesler at hooker is a chippie, going up against Codie Taylor and (lock) Ryan Smith calling the roster is an air conditioning tradie.
“These guys have opportunities and visibility which is really cool and I’m sure you’ll see a lot more next year.”
Thorn acknowledged that his team was still below the required standard.
“We had success against Australian teams,” he said. “He’s dropped two runs against the Chiefs, eight against the Highlanders, had some solid hits with the Crusaders in the last two weeks. I think there has been an improvement, but we need to take one or more more steps.
Without Tupou, whose contract situation remains to be settled, the Reds scrum was harassed throughout the night in Christchurch.
“It was quite hectic. There was some pressure around the scrum. It’s something we’re proud of, but the Crusaders got paid there.
All Blacks legend calls for Pacific Six Nations competition
All Blacks legend Sir Bryan Williams, one of Moana Pasifika’s driving forces, is dreaming of a Pacific Six Nations competition.
Williams joined The Roar pundit Harry Jones for a special edition of our podcast on Saturday – reflecting on his career as the 115-Test All Black as well as Moana Pasifika’s impact in the SRP this season.
He said one of the main aims of him and Sir Michael Jones was to raise the level of Pasifika talent by giving them more exposure to top-level competition.
“We realized the disadvantages that Pacific Island national teams always faced when going up against the big boys,” Williams said. “Lack of funding, lack of preparation, getting together for a week of training before facing the All Blacks and Wallabies.
“Moana Pasifika has given all of our players the opportunity to play in high-level mainstream competition and then to join the national teams.
“This week we saw the Tonga national team named with 13 of Moana’s players, and Manu Samoa, I saw a squad announced with a similar number.
“What I’d like to see ultimately is playing regular test matches on an annual basis against Australia and New Zealand and maybe Japan and the three Pacific island nations. We could to have a truly meaningful Six Nations competition.
“That might be a bit of a stretch for some right now, but I think it’s definitely possible.”
The All Blacks retreat
Crusader Ethan Blackadder and Blues backrower Dalton Papalii are both doubts for the All Blacks series against Ireland next month.
The NZ Herald reports that Papalii has a ‘medical issue’ which could sideline him for the remainder of the SRP campaign and the Ireland Tests.
“Papalii was named to start at open flanker for the Blues, alongside Akira Ioane and Hoskins Sotutu, against the Highlanders, but the medical issue has since flared up and he has undergone keyhole surgery,” reported the NZ Herald. Saturday.
Papalii, who started eight Tests for the All Blacks last year, has been superb this season as the Blues set up a club record 13 straight wins.
Blackadder appeared to be in massive pain as he walked off the field in the Reds’ defeat, clutching his arm to protect his injured shoulder.
“It’s a shoulder, not great,” Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said.
“He’s unlikely to be involved for the rest of the season for us, and hopefully it’s not (requiring) surgery.”
Meanwhile, the Highlanders’ hopes of upsetting the Blues could hinge on the fitness of captain Aaron Smith with reports he could miss with a groin injury.
Manu is missing
England center Manu Tuilagi has been ruled out of next month’s tour of Australia after undergoing knee surgery, his club Sale Sharks have said.
England will face the Wallabies in a three-Test series on their first tour of the country in six years, which kicks off in Perth on July 2.
“Sale Sharks can confirm Manu Tuilagi has undergone routine knee surgery which will rule the 31-year-old out of England’s tour of Australia this summer,” the statement read.
“The club, in close consultation with England Rugby, have decided that a summer off and a full pre-season is the best course of action.”
Tuilagi, who has featured just 46 times for England due to various injuries since making his debut in 2011, missed his entire Six Nations campaign as Eddie Jones’ side finished third.
England crushed the Wallabies 3-0 on their last tour of Australia in 2016.