Tue, Aug 21, 2007 - Page 18 News List

Collins creates fear, demands respect

AFP , WELLINGTON

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Between the haka and the kick off, Jerry Collins moves away from his All Blacks teammates, goes down on one knee and offers a silent prayer.

Moments after a word with his God, the man who is softly spoken and polite-to-the-extreme off the field turns into one of rugby's most feared players.

A trail of battered bodies on playing fields across the globe are testament to why he is often referred to as "hitman" and why he looms as a significant character in the World Cup.

Collins, affectionately known as JC or Guinness -- because of the distinctive blond thatch on his Samoan frame -- is an imposing figure.

At 1.90m and 109kg the All Blacks enforcer in the No. 6 jersey is renowned for his crunching collisions, brutally rampant runs and monstrous tackles, putting every body part on the line.

He's the classic rugby hardman, according to former Wallabies hooker Brendon Cannon.

"Most people would want to have Jerry Collins right beside them when the going gets tough," he said.

`massive'

Veteran French player Christian Califano, a rugged prop not easily impressed by size, was very succinct: "Jerry Collins is massive."

The French were in awe of Collins during their tour of New Zealand this year, seeking out the All Blacks gladiator after the final whistle and asking to have their photos taken with him on the field of battle.

He was particularly impressive in the second Test when two monumental collisions with the hirsute Sebastian Chabal culminated in the French giant leaving the field clutching an injured shoulder.

At least Chabal remained conscious, unlike Welshman Colin Charvis who four years earlier woke up in hospital after a fearsome Collins tackle.

When Canada arrived in New Zealand for a one-off pre World Cup Test, to midfield back Craig Culpan the mismatch was about just one player.

"My buddies just want to see me sat on my ass by Jerry Collins -- hopefully I'll avoid that," he said.

Yet the All Blacks ironman does not deliberately go out to maim people, and lives by a philosophy that does not involve making enemies.

"I like to think that you can belt the crap out of each other and have a smile afterwards," he said. "Your working face and your after-hours face are always different. It's a nice way to be."

"If you're a dirty player people mightn't want to talk to you, but if you just play hard sometimes you end up hurting people you like, but I get paid to do a job," Collins said.

reputation

And while his reputation is built around ferocious bodily contact, collisions are not what apspeals to the big man who cannot wear a mouthguard because he is allergic to the material.

"I'd actually prefer it if the game was a bit more free-flowing and I got the ball with a bit of space and no one in front of me," he said. "I would take that any day."

Collins came to national attention as a teenager when he captained the New Zealand Schools side in 1997.

Three years later, aged 20, he made his Test debut at No. 8 against Argentina but he did not become a regular fixture in the side until 2003, first at the back of the scrum before becoming the first-choice blindside flanker.

Now aged 26 and a veteran of 44 Tests, Collins thrives on match time and does not buy into the rotation policy of All Blacks coach Graham Henry -- although he knows he must go with the plan to remain an All Black.

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