Jerry Collins: Former All Black and wife Alana die in car crash

Jerry Collins: rugby world reacts to death of former All Black

Former All Black Jerry Collins and wife Alana Madill have died in a crash in France, with their daughter, Ayla, in a critical condition in hospital.

The couple's car was in collision with a bus near the southern town of Beziers in the early hours of Friday.

Collins, 34, made his debut for New Zealand in 2001 and won 48 caps. The ex-Ospreys flanker had been playing for French side Narbonne.

The All Blacksexternal-link said they were "shocked and saddened" by the news.

Collins, a tough-tackling blind-side flanker, was called the "Jonah Lomu" of forwards by World Cup-winning England scrum-half Matt Dawson, in a reference to the former New Zealand wing.

The long-term manager of Collins, Tim Castle, said in a statement the family were "distraught at the death of a much-loved son, brother and friend, and his partner Alana, whom I got to know recently".

Jerry Collins was killed in a car crash in France
The car Jerry Collins and his family were travelling in was in collision with a bus in southern France

"I have been in touch with Jerry's father Frank and other members of his family who are in Samoa at the moment. It's obviously a terribly difficult time for them and together with New Zealand rugby we are doing all we can to support them.

"I have also been in touch with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who are also doing everything they can to ensure that baby Ayla is getting all the care and support she needs."

Ex-New Zealand captain Sean Fitzpatrick paid tribute, saying Collins "epitomised everything an All Black should be".

"He was as tough as old boots on the field, very uncompromising and not someone you wanted to play against," he told BBC Radio 5 live.

"Off the field, he was the nicest guy you could meet."

French side Narbonne are "still trying to come to terms with the news" of the death of Jerry Collins and his wife Alana Madill

Collins started his career at Wellington in the National Provincial Championship.

Renowned for his bleach-blonde hair and ferocious tackling, he made his All Blacks debut against Argentina in Christchurch in 2001.

He also captained them three times and played for New Zealand at the 2003 and 2007 World Cups.

His last match for the All Blacks was the 2007 World Cup quarter-final loss to France in Cardiff.

Later that year, in one of rugby's great stories, Collins famously turned out for Barnstaple's second XV against Newton Abbot while on holiday in Devon.

He also wore the team's socks when he played for Barbarians in a win over South Africa in December 2007.

Barnstaple said he would "forever have a special place in our club's history".

Collins (far right) poses with Mils Muliaina (left) and Isaia Toeava (centre) after New Zealand's 2007 Bledisloe Cup win
Collins (far right) poses with Mils Muliaina (left) and Isaia Toeava (centre) after New Zealand's 2007 Bledisloe Cup win

Collins quit international rugby in 2008 and went on to join French Top 14 side Toulon before moving to Wales to play for Ospreys in 2009.

He helped Ospreys to a third league title in his first season with the region and was voted players' player of the year.

"He was his own man, a true individual and a giant of the world game," the Welsh region said.

Wales and Ospreys scrum-half Rhys Webb said it was "devastating" to hear of the death of "a true rugby legend".

Samoa-born Collins spent two years in Japan playing for Yamaha Jubilo from 2011-2013, before joining French second-tier side Narbonne in January 2015.

Radio New Zealand news editor Tony Vale told BBC Radio 5 live that the club were "still trying to come to terms with the news".

Hurricanes players hold a minute's silence before their game on Friday
Hurricanes players embrace during a minute's silence before their game on Friday

Collins also played for Super Rugby side Hurricanes. They held a minute's silence before Friday's game against the Highlanders in Napier.

How did he end up playing for Barnstaple?

"Jerry was on holiday in North Devon close to where we live and I happened to bump into him in a cafe," explained Kevin Squire, former head coach of Barnstaple Rugby Club.

"I went over to introduce myself and get a selfie and the next thing I know I am having coffee with him and invited him down to our club.

"I never expected him to come down, but two or three days later he was watching the first team and took a training session with our under-13s.

When Jerry Collins played for Barnstaple 2nd XV

"After that, he asked if he could play a game the following day. We said he couldn't as he wasn't registered but he said: 'No, not the first team, but the second or third team'.

"The next day, he jumped on the bus and played with our second team. The story went around the world.

"He was on holiday for six weeks in the area and kept coming round to see us. He would call round to our houses, drink with us and party with us. He was rugby nuts.

"He was a bit disillusioned with the game at that point in his life. New Zealand had exited the World Cup earlier than thought and he got in a lot of trouble for playing with us in that game.

"Everyone at Barnstaple will be sad to hear this news. For the guys that played that day with him, it is an experience they will never forget.

"My overriding feeling from that time was what a terrific fella he was. His influence on Devon and Barnstaple rugby will never be forgotten."

Collins turned out for Barnstaple's second XV side during a holiday in Devon
Collins (top row, fifth from right) turned out for Barnstaple's second XV during a holiday in Devon