6 Jun 2015

Tributes for 'extraordinary' former All Black captain

9:33 am on 6 June 2015

Former All Black captain Jerry Collins and his partner Alana Madill have died in a car crash in France.

Their young daughter, Ayla, is in a critical condition in hospital.

Jerry Collins fends off the tackle during a match against South Africa in 2006.

Jerry Collins fends off the tackle during a match against South Africa in 2006. Photo: AFP

Police in France said the crash happened on the A9 motorway near Montpelier.

They said it was believed the couple's car crossed the motorway median barrier and collided with a bus.

Collins, 34, who played 48 tests for the All Blacks and captained them three times, was in France playing for second-division side Racing Club Narbonne.

His manager, Tim Castle, says he has been in touch with Collins's father and other family members in Samoa.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it had been advised that Collins had been killed in a serious vehicle accident in France.

The Ministry said it would be a matter for local authorities to determine how the crash occurred.

The New Zealand Government is sending a representative to help repatriate the body of Collins.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says an adviser from the New Zealand Embassy in Paris has travelled to Montpellier to assist with the process.

'Extraordinary leader and player'

Former international and Hurricanes team-mate Chris Masoe was sporting a fresh peroxide blonde haircut in the French Top 14 semi-final.

Masoe's playing for another of Collins's old sides, Toulon, against Stade Francais - and they were wearing black armbands.

The Hurricanes and the Highlanders wore black arm bands during Friday night's match against the Highlanders in Napier, and a moment of silence was also held before the game.

It was won 56-20 by the Hurricanes.

The team found out about Collins' death just before boarding the team bus in Napier, to travel to their Super Rugby game against the Highlanders.

Captain Conrad Smith admitted the news made it hard to concentrate on their job last night.

"It was a tough game to prepare for after that.

"Sat on the bus, thought I was all right, then in the changing room before the game it was a bit tough.

"A lot of the guys hadn't played with him, but Ma'a, myself and Thrushy and a couple of us have played a lot for this jersey and the Hurricanes and it all knocks you around in different ways.

"I can only speak for myself but it made it into a different game."

Collins' long-standing manager, and spokesperson for the family, Tim Castle, said they were distraught at the death of the much-loved son, brother and friend, and his partner.

Smith said winning the Super Rugby first title would be a great way to honour Collins.

Hurricanes CEO James Te Puni said the team was shocked and saddened to hear about the deaths of Collins and his partner.

"He was an extraordinary leader and player, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family at this time."

Mr Te Puni said the team, and fans, would be praying for Ayla's recovery.

Jerry Collins announces his retirement from first-class rugby in 2008.

Jerry Collins announces his retirement from first-class rugby in 2008. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Collins, who was born in Samoa, played for the Wellington Lions as well as the Hurricanes, and made his international debut against Argentina in 2001.

After leaving New Zealand, he played for Toulon and the Ospreys before heading to Japan, where he played for Yamaha Júbilo until 2013.

In his profile page on the All Blacks' website, he is described as "one of the toughest and most uncompromising forwards" to ever play for the team.