Back in 2007, following New Zealand’s shock exit from the 2011 Rugby World Cup, Jerry Collins was in the UK for a while longer, so when presented with a chance to have a runout, he did so, shocking those he played with, and no doubt against.
Barnstaple RFC, whose first team play in the fifth tier of English rugby, felt the warmth of an All Black – capable of being ruthlessly aggressive on the field of play – when he donned their red colours in 2007.
This was no charity appearance, it was no promotional event, it was simply a man capped 48 times by the most dominant rugby nation on earth wishing to play and, in doing so, creating memories for some at the game’s grassroots level.
When he spotted the All Black star in a cafe in North Devon, Barnstaple director of rugby Kevin Squire could not resist an introduction. He was met by “a very polite and unassuming” man, who would quickly spark incredible excitement at the club.
“I mentioned the club and invited him to come down and watch a game but of course never expected him to turn up,” said Squire.
The club’s secretary Alan White added: “I was in the club bar and saw this face I thought I knew but you don’t see many Samoans in Barnstaple. He had a few pints and just said he wanted a game.”
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“What about the seconds or thirds?” asked Collins, who played at flanker or centre. “You can, but the lads will never believe us,” Squire responded.
And so the rumour mill was fuelled, the second string’s trip to Newton Abbot suddenly invigorated by the unthinkable: Collins – playing in a World Cup quarter-final less than a month earlier – was set for Rackerhayes, home of Newton Abbot RFC.
In the below video, one of his teammates on that day recounts the story of how he was injured, so Collins lay down on the turf next to him for a photo, as can be seen above.
“I never got into the team photo and that was the one thing I desperately wanted – my photo taken with Jerry Collins just to prove this had happened,” explained Trevor Wayborn.
“He lay down on the floor next to me and had his photo taken with my head being held until the ambulance came to pick me up.”
The All Blacks back-rower went onto wear the Barnstaple RFC socks when turning out for the Barbarians against South Africa, which in the clubs own words, put the team on the map.
10 Things You Didn’t Know About Jerry Collins!
RUCK.co.uk shares with you 10 not so well known facts about the late, great All Black legend Jerry Collins.
1. Started young
He was Player of the Tournament at the 1999 World Junior Championships (Under-19) which New Zealand won, before going on to become the first player from that team to be called up to the All Blacks in 2001.
Collins was cousins with Newcastle winger Sinoti Sinoti and former All Blacks captain and Hurricanes teammate Tana Umaga.
3. Captain fantastic
In June 2006, he captained the All Blacks in a one-off Test match against Argentina, where he led his team to a 25–19 victory in Buenos Aires becoming the 61st captain of the All Blacks.