Johnson confirmed tension existed between Rodda and Thorn, but encouraged the pair to find a resolution.
“Was it raised? It wasn’t raised,” Johnson told the Herald when asked about the tension. “Do I know there was maybe an issue? Yes, but go and sort it out.”
Rodda, on $650,000 a season, wants to continue in Australia, but not at the Reds. He is hoping to be transferred to another Australian franchise and knowing Rodda’s value, other coaches are keeping a close eye on the developing situation.
None will comment publicly, however, with one saying it was an “RA and Reds issue” and another noting there was a “fair bit to play out” before Rodda might pack up and join another team.
Johnson said no formal request had been put forward by Rodda’s management to switch teams, but Rugby Australia has recent form in facilitating a similar request, with Jack Maddocks moving to NSW from the Rebels amid speculation he’d fallen out with coach Dave Wessels.
Just how hard Johnson and Rugby Australia push their preference of Rodda and Thorn reconciling, and run the risk of losing Rodda overseas if they cannot, remains to be seen.
The Herald has been told by sources with knowledge of the situation that Rennie, still in the northern hemisphere, is actively involved in what is going on.
Rennie is being regularly briefed about the Rodda situation, knowing the towering second-rower will be an important member of his maiden Wallabies side. The former Chiefs coach wants to know everything is being done to try and keep Rodda in Australia.
Contractually, that may end up being the case, but with legal teams on behalf of Rodda and also RA looking over things from an employment contract perspective, it may not be straightforward.
Rodda, Lucas and Hockings’ decisions to refuse a pay cut was not well received.
Johnson said during the week he hoped the trio would admit they “got it wrong” and is confident Thorn and the Reds will accept their apology if they wanted to come back on board.
Tension between Thorn and Rodda may have been involved when the coach rested Rodda for the Reds’ round six match against the Crusaders in March. Thorn left his star player out again the following week against the Bulls before Super Rugby was eventually put on pause due to COVID-19.
At the time, Thorn cited Rodda’s workload, despite picking him in the first five rounds.
“Izack’s had a heck of a lot of footy in the last two years,” Thorn said. “He came back from the World Cup with an injury and didn’t really get a break at all.
“It’s something we’ve talked to Izack about. It’s a bit different in that situation with him.”
However, there are others close to the situation who disagree. Thorn was hardly accommodating when he had a falling out with Quade Cooper and refused to pick him throughout the 2018 season.
Tom Decent is a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald