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THORBURN, Peter Robert Tyler

New Zealand

Died 26th of January 2021

Peter THORBURN Death Notice.

Peter Robert Tyler Thorburn MNZM (19 March 1939 – 26 January 2021) was a New Zealand rugby union player and coach. He played his entire career as a flanker for Auckland from 1965 to 1970. He became a coach after his playing career came to an end, coaching domestically at first for North Harbour and the New Zealand national rugby sevens team. He later coached in England with Bristol Rugby from 2001 to 2003, before becoming interim head coach of the United States national rugby union team and guiding the side to the 2007 Rugby World Cup. He was also a selector for the All Blacks.

Thorburn was born in Auckland on 19 March 1939. He attended Mount Albert Grammar School. He made his debut for Auckland in 1965. He ended up making 40 appearances with the team before playing his final game with them in 1970.

After retiring as a player, Thorburn became coach of the North Harbour rugby team. He served in this capacity from the founding of the union in 1985 until 1991. He later identified the team's promotion to Division One of the National Provincial Championship in only its third season as the highlight of his career.  He also served as coach for the New Zealand national rugby sevens team from 1988 to 1990. He briefly rejoined the team in 1993, until Gordon Tietjens became coach the following year.

Thorburn's first stint as selector for the New Zealand national rugby union team came in 1992. He served alongside Earle Kirton under coach Laurie Mains until 1994. Three years later, he became coach of North Harbour again for the 1997 season. His second spell as selector with the All Blacks came in 2000 until 2001, this time with Wayne Smith as coach. Thorburn dismissed concerns that his previous tenure as a rugby commentator would impact his work as a selector, maintaining that he "may have criticised a particular performance but that's as far as I've gone". He added that he would never publicly criticise players because they do not have "the right of reply".

Thorburn became Director of Rugby at English club Bristol Rugby during the second half of the 2001–02 season, initially on a three-month contract. The club advanced to the final of the Zurich Championship that season, and also qualified for the following year's Heineken Cup. After Dean Ryan quit as head coach, Thorburn was offered the position with a two-year deal. The following season saw Bristol relegated from the Premiership. He consequently quit as head coach with one more season remaining on his contract and went back to New Zealand. He had earlier spoken out against a proposed merger with Bath, but accepted the possibility of such a result when relegation became imminent. The club was ultimately saved.[9]

Thorburn was named a Life Member of the North Harbour Union in 2005, becoming only the third individual to be bestowed this honour. That same year, he was appointed as a selector for the New Zealand national under-19 rugby union team and served in that role until 2006. He also worked for the International Rugby Academy and acted as a consultant for Manawatu Rugby Union. Thorburn was appointed interim coach of the United States national rugby union team in April 2006. Although his contract was only supposed to last through World Cup qualifying, it was extended through to the competition proper in December 2006 after a series of strong performances. The team was expected to perform well at 2007 Rugby World Cup finals, but Thorburn regretted the fact that the team played few warm-up games against strong opposition. After a promising 10–28 loss to England, the USA managed only to achieve a bonus point at the 21–25 loss to Samoa. Despite the fact that his side had to play two games in the space of five days, Thorburn declined to pinpoint the schedule as the reason for their loss.

Thorburn started a pharmaceutical company with a business partner in the mid-1970s, shortly after he stopped playing professional rugby. His first wife died in 1991, and he subsequently remarried. He moved with his second wife, Sarnia, from the North Shore to Omaha Beach in the late 1990s. At around the same time, he sold the pharmaceutical company.

After retiring from coaching, Thorburn appeared weekly on Radio Sport and also contributed to a blog. He also had a keen interest in Thoroughbred racing, with two of the horses he owned winning multiple Group I races. In the 2013 New Year Honours, Thorburn was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to rugby.

Thorburn died on 26 January 2021 at North Shore Hospital in Takapuna. He was 81.

Peter Thorburn Death Notice Reference - Wikipedia

Image: The Office of the Governor General

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North Harbour Stadium

Saturday 30th of January 2021 at 11:00 AM

Obituary originally published: The New Zealand Herald on 28th of January 2021

HonourThem learned about the death of Peter THORBURN through obituary notice publications on: The New Zealand Herald.

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