6 Jun 2015

Collins' daughter's condition improves

3:30 pm on 6 June 2015

The health of Jerry Collins' baby daughter, who was seriously injured in a car crash, has improved - but she remains in hospital in serious condition.

The former All Black captain and his partner Alana Madill died in a car crash in France, yesterday.

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.

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Speaking on behalf of Collins' family, his manager Tim Castle said their three-month-old daughter Ayla, the only other passenger in car, was still in hospital.

Jerry Collins

Photo: AFP

"Ayla's care and recovery is central to all our endeavours at this time," he said.

"The news today is that her condition has improved a little, which is wonderful for the family. She remains nevertheless in a very serious condition."

Mr Castle said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), Collins' rugby club Narbonne and others on the ground were monitoring her progress hour by hour.

He said fellow rugby players Neemia Tialata, Chris Masoe and their wives were already in Montpellier or on their way there.

Collins' cousin and former All Black Tana Umaga has also been helping from Italy.

An MFAT adviser from the Embassy in Paris has travelled to Montpellier to assist with the process of bringing Collins' body back to New Zealand.

Mr Castle said Collins' mother and two sisters were in Samoa for a wedding when they got the news of his death, but were now on their way back to Wellington to be with the rest of the family, including his father Frank.

He said he had also been in contact with Ms Madill's parents, who are also "very devastated" and "deeply traumatised" by the news.

Collins' family were thankful for the outpouring of support following the death, he said.

"The family wish to pay tribute to All Black management, New Zealand Rugby, individually and collectively for the support they immediately provided to the family when the news broke."

The family also thanked MFAT, the Norths Rugby Club, the Hurricanes and the broader rugby community for the tributes and condolences.

"Jerry was a legend, but not just here in the great game, the great ball game. He was much loved all over the world. And the tributes are flowing," Mr Castle said.

Ron Wood, president of Collins' local rugby club Norths, said he had seen the player grow up and the news of his death came as a blow.

"I was devastated. Shell-shocked. Numb. You feel like your heart is ripped out of you. It's just so sad for the families."

Mr Wood said the club will hold a minute of silence for Collins during a game against Johnsonville today.

He said the club will help his family in any way they can.

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.