Leinster lock Brad Thorn targets history in Heineken Cup final against Ulster

 

New Zealander Brad Thorn could create rugby history in tomorrow's Heineken Cup final between Leinster and Ulster at Twickenham.

Thorn, provided he is selected and holders Leinster retain the trophy, would become the first player to win a World Cup, Heineken Cup and Super Rugby title.

The 37-year-old former All Blacks lock has been a key part of Leinster's charge towards their third Heineken final in four seasons.

"I just love my footie," he said. "I like being here, the challenge of it and being part of a Heineken Cup.

"Leinster are a great side with a great coaching team in Joe Schmidt, Greg Feek and Jono Gibbes - it's the whole package.

"Being in the Heineken Cup final is juicy, but basically there is a brick wall between us and the cup in Ulster."

While Leinster have enjoyed an unbeaten march to the final, winning seven and drawing one of their eight games, Ulster progressed from a tougher pool - one that included European heavyweights Leicester and Clermont Auvergne.

They also knocked out twice-Heineken Cup winners and quarter-final opponents Munster, and the size of their threat is not lost on Schmidt.

"In last year's final, Northampton played superbly in the first-half against us and we didn't take our opportunities," he said.

"We made three clean line-breaks and gave the ball straight back to them. They dominated us in the first 40 minutes.

"We can't afford to do that with Ulster, especially when you look at their quarter-final victory over Munster.

"Ulster are a team that can keep you under pressure because of their kicking game and they can also exert pressure on your platforms.

"John Afoa, Tom Court and Rory Best have done a great job for them in the front-row; Johann Muller calls the lineouts and Stephen Ferris and Pedrie Wannenburg both add a lot.

"If we allow them to get a good start and build a lead, then it will be a pretty tough job for us to get back into the game."

England international Steffon Armitage, meanwhile, has hailed the influence of former France coach Bernard Laporte on Amlin Challenge Cup finalists Toulon.

Armitage, Jonny Wilkinson and company will aim to end Toulon's 20-year wait for a major trophy when they tackle Biarritz at the Twickenham Stoop tonight.

"Bernard has brought his own distinctive game plan with him," former London Irish flanker Armitage said.

"And although Toulon are regarded as big spenders, he also makes sure that everyone keeps their feet on the ground and everyone is equal.

"He has given players the opportunity to come out of their shells and play their own kind of rugby.

"We are not scared of anyone. On our day we have got the players to win games, so the only important thing to Toulon was that we were there for the final and not who we are playing."

PA

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