Jerry Collins: The All-Black, Hurricanes and Barnstaple Legend

Sean KellyAnalyst IJune 3, 2008

When someone mentions the name Jerry Collins, certain things will come into your thoughts.

Maybe his bleached blonde hair? Maybe him and Richie McCaw making one of the best flanker partnerships international rugby has ever seen? Maybe his spell with amateur Devon outfit Barnstaple?

Whatever it may be, Jerry Collins has to be seen as one of the greatest New Zealanders to slip on the famous All-Black jersey.

Now the ex-Hurricanes back rower has released himself from his contract with New Zealand, and looks on to a different future.

Since debuting for the All-Blacks in 2001, Collins has gone on to play 46 test matches, scoring four tries. Jerry has had the honour of captaining the All-Blacks in a one off test match in Buenos Aires against Argentina, where he led his team to a 25-19 victory in Buenos Aires, becoming the 61st captain of the All-Blacks.

After the match, he gave a "particularly long speech" to both teams, which was spoken in fluent Spanish. Many Argentine players praised him afterwards for his remarkable ability with the local language, considering it was his first time filling in for regular skipper Richie McCaw.

Recently, he was named as All-Black captain in World Cup matches against Portugal and Romania, once again standing in for McCaw. All three times he has skippered the All-Blacks, he has triumphed and set the standard for his fellow players with his undeniable grit and aggressive style of play.

Many have labeled Jerry Collins as the hardest tackler in world rugby. In 2005 he was nominated by Australian players in the Super 14 as their most feared opponent and was the only nominee.

Collins is famous for putting on brutal, bone-crunching tackles when needed. In the 2005 Phillips Tri-nations tournament Collins showed this when he knocked out Australian back Morgan Turunui with one of his trademark tackles.

Colin Charvis was admitted to the hospital following a particularly hard tackle during the Welsh tour of New Zealand in 2003.

Collins is even currently listed to have the largest biceps in the New Zealand squad.

In October 2007, following New Zealand's exit from the 2007 Rugby World Cup, Collins was vacationing in Devon when he was spotted by Barnstaple Rugby Football Club's head coach Kevin Squire, who invited him to come and watch them play at the weekend.

Much to the club's surprise, he turned up, so they asked if he minded running a coaching session with the junior section. After doing this, Squire thanked Collins and asked if there was anything they could do to repay him. Collins replied he just wanted to play rugby.

So the following Saturday, Collins turned out for the club's 2nd XV match against local side Newton Abbot. Playing as a No. 8, he was forced to adapt his game to ensure he did not unduly dominate his amateur opponents.

After the match, he asked if the club would allow him to turn out for the Barbarians game against the Springboks wearing his Barnstaple socks, which they obviously said yes to.

So now what for Mr. Collins?

He has already been linked with French outfit Toulouse, Heineken Cup champions Munster and European Challenge Cup winners Bath.

He has also stated he may not even carry on playing rugby.

"When I get home I'll have the time to sit back and weigh up what I want to do. I might go home and look in the mirror and not want to play rugby. I suppose that's the scary part but I've no regrets. I'm pretty happy with what I've achieved," he said.

The most intriguing and possibly pleasing rumour is that of his permanent move to North Devon to finish off his career for Barnstaple. Such a move would prove what Rugby means to such a player of his calibre.

In a world where sports are often overpowered by money, the fact he would be willing to finish off his career with an amateur side shows that still even today a professional and international legend still loves the game and that money will not sculpt his future.

Thank you, Jerry Collins.