At 41, Thorn back in the starting lineup in Australia's NRC

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Brad Thorn and Richie McCaw after the win. Super 15 rugby match - Crusaders v Hurricanes at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand on Saturday, 18 June 2011.

Brad Thorn and Richie McCaw after the win. Super 15 rugby match - Crusaders v Hurricanes at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand on Saturday, 18 June 2011. (Photo: Dave Lintott / photosport.co.nz)

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Brad Thorn will put theory back into practice when he starts for Queensland Country on Saturday in a National Rugby Championship match against New South Wales Country at the age of 41.

In a professional career that started when he played for the Brisbane Broncos in Australia's NRL at age 19 in 1994, Thorn played rugby league for Queensland and Australia before switching codes and ultimately winning a Rugby World Cup with the New Zealand All Blacks in 2011.

The powerful forward played more than 450 matches at first-class level before retiring and linking up as a coach with the Queensland Reds in Super Rugby.

With the Super Rugby season over, Thorn turned his attention to working on his coaching credentials in Australia's fledgling NRC before a run of injuries in the playing squad presented him with another opportunity. He returned to the field as a replacement last weekend in a loss to the Western Sydney Rams.

Thorn replaces injured Phil Potgieter in the second row in Toowoomba, where he'll pack down beside Izack Rodda, one of the players he has been mentoring.

"The addition of Brad to the starting team will add a lot of experience to the starting side," Queensland Country coach Toutai Kefu said. "It will be a great chance for many of our young players to learn from him directly on-field, an experience that is invaluable."

Thorn said he was surprised with how his calf muscles handled the return last weekend and that he is happy to get back into the thick of the action.

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