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'I would be honoured to coach the Wallabies': Brad Thorn keen on Australia's top job

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

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All Blacks great Brad Thorn has expressed his interest in coaching the Wallabies, saying it would be an honour to take charge of the Australian national side.

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Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald in the wake of his side’s 21-7 Super Rugby Pacific win over the Brumbies in Brisbane a fortnight ago, the Queensland Reds boss outlined his intention to one day coach the Wallabies.

“Australia is where the challenge is for me and where I’m connected to,” Thorn said.

“I hold the Wallabies coaching role in high esteem. It’s a privilege and a responsibility. I don’t believe you should just walk in there and get the job. You have to earn the right.

“Right now, I’m really enjoying my time with Queensland. We feel we have built a quality program here and that’s where our focus remains.

“If the opportunity presented itself at the right time later down the track, I would be honoured to coach the Wallabies, but that’s for other people to make that decision.”

A 59-test lock who was an integral member of the 2011 World Cup-winning All Blacks squad, Thorn has strong ties to Australia.

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Born and raised in Mosgiel, just outside of Dunedin, Thorn moved to Australia with his family at the age of eight, relocating to Queensland.

It was in the Sunshine State where the 47-year-old first made his name as a cross-code legend as he made his first-class rugby league debut for the Brisbane Broncos as a teenager in 1994.

Thorn went on to make 200 appearances and won three NRL titles, as well as a Super League crown and a World Club Championship, across two separate stints with the Broncos between 1994 and 2007.

He also represented Queensland 14 times during his two rugby league spells between 1996 and 2005, and played eight tests for Australia in 1997 and 1998.

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After having starred as a rugby union player in New Zealand, Thorn closed out his playing career in Australia, acting as a player-coach for Queensland Country in the now-defunct National Rugby Championship in 2016.

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After assuming the head coach role the following year, Thorn was appointed Reds boss ahead of the 2018 Super Rugby season after the dismissal of Nick Stiles, who led the franchise to a 14th-place finish.

Since then, Thorn has overseen a significant change in fortunes, guiding the Reds to the 2021 Super Rugby AU title after having led them to a runner-up finish the season beforehand.

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Under his stewardship, the Reds were also one of only two Australian teams to beat Kiwi opposition in last year’s Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, and the franchise currently sits comfortably in the top four on the Super Rugby Pacific table.

Thorn has also been largely responsible for the development of current Reds stars such as Taniela Tupou, Jordan Petaia, Hunter Paisami, Tate McDermott, Harry Wilson, Fraser McReight, Filipo Daugunu and Liam Wright.

All eight of those players either became Wallabies or have become key members of Australia’s national squad under Thorn’s guidance.

The latter can certainly be applied to James O’Connor, the veteran Reds playmaker who was recalled by Thorn for a fruitful third stint in Australian rugby after two troubled spells earlier in his career.

O’Connor has since blossomed into a vital figure in Australian rugby, providing leadership and performing well consistently for both the Reds and Wallabies.

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All of that paints a picture that Thorn would stand as a highly-credible replacement to Wallabies incumbent Dave Rennie if he is to step away from his current role following next year’s World Cup in France.

Thorn wouldn’t stand for that position unchallenged, though, as outgoing Brumbies boss Dan McKellar stands as his biggest contender to succeed Rennie.

Thorn’s Reds and McKellar’s Brumbies have developed a strong rivalry as Australia’s top two Super Rugby franchises in recent seasons.

Both teams met in the 2020 and 2021 Super Rugby AU finals, with each team sharing a title apiece, while Thorn holds a slender 7-6 lead in head-to-head matches against McKellar.

However, McKellar was last year recruited by Rennie to act as Australia’s defence coach, a position the Brumbies head coach will move into on a full-time basis following this year’s Super Rugby Pacific campaign.

That suggests McKellar is viewed favourably by Rennie and Rugby Australia, which may work in his favour should the Wallabies job become available.

Nevertheless, given his proven coaching pedigree and on-the-record expression of interest in taking charge of the Wallabies, Thorn remains a top-class option for Rugby Australia if Rennie opts to move on in a year-and-a-half’s time.

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