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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 19 June, 2019

Ex-Leinster lock Thornbury's adventure to the heartland of New Zealand rugby

The 23-year-old is part of a Wanganui side that plays in the Meads Cup final this weekend.


This post is part of The42′s Facing History series, supported by Cadbury Boost. To read more, click here.

AFTER COMING THROUGH the Leinster academy, Gavin Thornbury’s first season as a professional with the province in 2015/16 was ruined by injury.

As the former Ireland U20 lock worked his way back towards fitness, he was offered the opportunity of a stint in New Zealand by then Leinster defence coach Kurt McQuilkin.

Eager to play rugby during the Irish summer months, 23-year-old Thornbury jumped at the opportunity, joining club side Border in the town of Waverley on the North Island.

Having helped Border to title glory in the Wanganui premier club competition, Thornbury earned a place in the Wanganui provincial representative team, who play in the Heartland Championship – the tier below New Zealand’s Mitre 10 Cup.

Thornbury was soon joined by ex-Leinster team-mate Steve Crosbie in the provincial set-up, but the out-half moved back to Ireland early to take up the offer of a contract at Munster.

Thornbury has been in superb form in Wanganui’s drive to the Meads Cup final – the final of the play-offs after the Heartland Championship – scoring tries, stealing lineouts and offering a big work rate around the pitch.

Jason Caskey’s undefeated Wanganui team face Buller in the final this Saturday, before Thornbury returns to Ireland in November.

We visited Wanganui’s Cook Gardens for their regular season game against Thames Valley to find out more about Thornbury’s adventure in New Zealand, the provincial set-up at Wanganui, and the ‘Butcher Boys’ approach to rugby.

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Murray Kinsella

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