NZ Rugby World
DEBUT: Saturday, 23 June 2001 v Argentina at Christchurch aged 20 years, 231 days
LAST TEST: Saturday, 6 October 2007 v France at Cardiff aged 26 years, 336 days
FUN FACT Collins captained the All Blacks against Argentina in Buenos Aires in 2006 and to the delight of those present, delivered his after-match speech in perfect Spanish.
When he picked an 18-year-old Jerry Collins in his Wellington squad in 1999 coach Graham Mourie was quizzed about the wisdom of blooding someone so young, especially a forward. “If you are good enough, you’re old enough,” was Mourie’s response and Collins was certainly good enough. He had captained his club side that year, played for the New Zealand Under 19 team that won the world title (Collins was player of the tournament) and played for the New Zealand Colts. Talent wasn’t an issue. Neither was toughness. Collins was an old school hard man on the field and it was his mental strength that saw him overcome serious injuries early in his career. He was first used at No8 but by the time the Lions arrived in 2005 he was at blindside flanker where his defence was every bit as ruthless as Jerome Kaino or Michael Jones. He played 29 of his 48 tests at blindside and though he was a brute on the field, he was a much gentler soul off it. He was also a bit of a folk hero, not just at home in Wellington but around the world with his homespun wisdom and pithy quotes popular with the media. Sadly, Collins and his partner were killed in a motor vehicle accident in France, in 2015.