The Queensland Reds have pulled off a major coup by signing former All Blacks back-rower Adam Thomson.
A family link has helped deliver Queensland a Super Rugby recruit who looms as more influential than James O’Connor and Karmichael Hunt – former All Blacks flanker Adam Thomson.
Thomson, among the competition’s most dangerous forwards in five seasons as a key man for the Highlanders, will join the Reds for the 2015 season in a major coup for coach Richard Graham.
Graham was alerted to the 29-Test back-rower’s desire to return to top-level rugby by his brother-in-law, Canon Eagles coach Zane Hilton, in early August.
Thomson has starred for the Eagles for the past two seasons of Japan’s Top 12 and Hilton’s quiet word with Graham triggered talks after the Reds finally gave up on their quest to lure another All Blacks flanker in Victor Vito.
With Queensland sorely missing an attacking X-factor in their pack following the losses of Scott Higginbotham and Radike Samo, the athletic 196cm Thomson fits the bill superbly in an otherwise small, hard-working back-row.
“He’s an outstanding signing,” Graham said. “I’m fortunate I know the coach of Canon very well and his form over there has been outstanding – he’s the top try-scorer and one of the most influential foreigners.
“He’s craving the competition of Super Rugby and it’s evident his standards are still high.”
But the Reds will have to be patient as Thomson won’t join them in pre-season training until late January, at the earliest, or after their first-round match against the Brumbies on February 13 if the Eagles make the finals.
Graham is more than prepared to wait as he also sees the 32-year-old, a member of New Zealand’s 2011 World Cup-winning squad, as an intelligent and respected mentor for his young forwards in much the same way Daniel Braid was in 2009 and ’10.
Able to play all three back-row positions, Thomson’s recruitment particularly puts the heat on Ed Quirk and Curtis Browning as he’s pencilled in at blindside flanker to complement poacher Liam Gill and industrious No.8 Jake Schatz.
Queensland have now snaffled three of the biggest off-season recruits – with drawcard outside backs O’Connor and Hunt – to lift them back out of the mire and keep crowd attendances above 30,000.
Consistently one of the Highlanders’ best players in his 68 games, there’s no concerns Thomson won’t show the same passion for the Reds.
“That’s part of his personality,” Graham said. “He was at the heart of the everything that the Highlanders did. A very tough, awkward guy to tackle and very skilful also.
“I think we’ve already got a very good back-row and he brings some real class and quality to it.”