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Thorn Not Done Yet After Mammoth Season

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Fuseworks Media

By Mark Geenty of NZPA

Marseille, Nov 27 NZPA - He described himself as "a walking carcass" after the All Blacks' rugby test win over the Wallabies in Sydney.

That was five tests ago, and Brad Carnegie Thorn was by no means finished.

On he rumbled, through the end of the Tri-Nations, on to Tokyo and then Europe, pausing only for a much deserved rest against Italy in Milan.

Putting the San Siro test aside, Thorn has played every minute of every All Blacks test he started so far in 2009.

That's 12 tests, which means by halftime against France at Stade Velodrome on Sunday (NZT) he will have 1000 minutes of test rugby in the bank this year.

And at that stage, the 34-year-old will be just getting going.

"With rugby there's an opportunity to play 80 minutes, and some guys don't last the 80," Thorn said.

"Especially that last 20 is the time that really excites me. It's an important time of the game, an exciting time, and usually when the game's decided.

"People are getting tired and you just get tested mentally and it's who can persevere and keep their discipline.

"All the little things, not just stuff you see on tv, but a guy doing his lift to the best he can, a scrum engagement, every little thing. It's a good time to be out there.

"You do look at someone else's body language and the will to win. Sometimes you don't have anything left but you've just got your will. It's a pretty special time out there."

Like at Sydney's ANZ Stadium when he punched the air like a 20-year-old when the All Blacks were awarded the matchwinning penalty, even before Dan Carter kicked the goal.

And in Cardiff when his coaches lauded one of his best tests as an All Black as Wales stormed back, and the tourists held on 19-12.

Despite a long, long season, Thorn reckons his All Blacks are as well conditioned as anyone for the "money time", as he puts it.

They will need it against a fired-up France before a packed house.

"We feel we're pretty fit and we pride ourselves on our work rate," Thorn said.

"There's some pretty good engines around, a guy like Richie McCaw's a specimen, he just keeps on going; Kieran Read, and guys who might surprise you like Tony Woodcock, a 120kg guy who just goes all day.

"There's a heap of them, I shouldn't use names because they're all doing it."

Meanwhile, coach Graham Henry continues to marvel at his ageless wonder.

It is clear he could not do without the former Brisbane Broncos star in his side.

"He's probably played the best rugby of his life, he's only a young man of course, so he's still developing as an international footballer," Henry said of Thorn.

"He's becoming a world-class lock and that's his inspiration to get better even though he's played a lot of professional sport.

"He's an inspiration to others because of his attitude, because he helps them, he's a very key player in the side."

Thorn was still at it this week, chugging along like a machine in the gym, and on the park.

The former self-confessed hellraiser who loved a drink is now a committed Christian and teetotaller, crediting the latter with his remarkable recovery powers.

He is intent on summoning one final effort before catching a plane home on Monday as his teammates fly to London, having been given leave to be with his wife Mary-Anne and their four children aged under six.

As the tour drags on, Thorn is missing his family terribly and cannot wait to return home. But not after one final, brutal day at the office.

"I started playing trials in late January and it's now almost December. It's been a solid year. Super 14 for Canterbury, we lost our first four games, we were under the pump. All Blacks, the home series wasn't easy then the Tri-Nations we had our losses to Africa.

"It's been a solid year, and with the tour I've been away from my family a lot.

"It is really something I'm looking forward to, getting home.

"But physically I'm feeling pretty good. I know I've got one job to do, it's in the 80-minute bracket and if I don't give that the right respect then I won't feel good going home.

"Whatever I go through, I know there's a huge rest after that so there's nothing to hold back for me."

That will entail many hours with his kids, and a long spell on an Australian beach, Thorn said, before he returns to Crusaders training in late January and resumes his remarkable rugby career.

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