Rugby star Jerry Collins dies in France car crash

Former All Blacks flanker Jerry Collins and his partner died after their car was struck by a bus at a highway toll booth outside the southern French town of Beziers on Friday.
Collins was 34. A police official, who did not want to be named because the information had not yet been publicly released, said Collinsand’ partner, Alana Madill, was driving and no one in the bus was harmed.
Highway police in Beziers said their three-month-old daughter Ayla was gravely injured in the crash about a half-hour drive from Narbonne, where Collins had been playing since January for the townand’s second division club. Ayla was airlifted to a hospital in Montpellier in what French police called a andquotdesperateandquot condition.
andquotThe news has shocked us all and our thoughts are with Jerry and Alanaand’s families at this terribly sad time,andquot New Zealand Rugby general manager Neil Sorensen said. andquotWe offer our deepest condolences to them and will support them as they come to terms with this devastating news.andquot Tributes for Collins flooded in from former teammates and opponents.
All Blacks great Jonah Lomu tweeted: andquotrest in peace my brother JC (and) your lovely lady. You will be surely missed. Prayers to your little (girl).andquot Former All Blacks fullback Christian Cullen said Collins was andquota big part of Hurricanes rugby and a big part of New Zealand rugby in general.andquot Ireland great Brian Oand’Driscoll tweeted: andquotterrible news about Jerry Collins and his wife in France. Thoughts are with his family,andquot and Springboks winger Bryan Habana said andquotterrible news to wake up to about Jerry Collins and his wifeand’s passing. Keeping his family and friends in my thoughts and prayers.andquot
French club Toulon, where Collins played for one season, issued a statement to express its sympathies to the families of the victims. All Toulon players will wear a black armband in Fridayand’s Top 14 semifinal against Stade Francais. Collins rose from humble beginnings to become one of the most feared and admired rugby players of his generation.
Collins was born in Apia, Samoa, and raised in Porirua – a blue collar suburb on the outskirts of the New Zealand capital Wellington. He showed huge potential at an early age, becoming a high school star, winning selection for New Zealand Secondary Schools and being named player of the tournament at the Junior World Cup in 1999.
His elevation to the All Blacks in 2001 – his first season in Super Rugby and at the age of only 20 – was no surprise and, though injury briefly interrupted his international career, he returned to the All Blacks from 2003 to become a first team regular. Collins, who stood an imposing 1.91 meters (6-foot-3 12) and weighed 107 kilograms (235 pounds) at his optimum playing weight, played at blindside flanker and became internationally famous for the ferocity of his tackling.
That aptitude may have been best demonstrated in 2003 when, in a test between New Zealand and Wales, Collins knocked out the Wales captain Colin Charvis in a completely legitimate but bone-rattling tackle. All Blacks captain Tana Umaga, Collinsand’ cousin, won an international sportsmanship award for placing the unconscious Charvis in the recovery position.
Collins became a highly respected and senior member of the All Blacks team and was appointed to the captaincy for a 2006 test against Argentina in Buenos Aires. A profile on the New Zealand Rugby website said Collins earthy comments at a post-match news conference might have contributed to the short-lived natured of his captaincy.
But he also led New Zealand in pool matches at the 2007 World Cup. The All Blacksand’ quarterfinal loss to France at that tournament was the last of Collinsand’ 48 tests for New Zealand. While he was a key contributor to many test victories, he garnered few international honors: Taking part in the All Blacksand’ failed World Cup campaigns in 2003 and 2007.
After his international retirement, Collins went on to play for clubs in Britain, Japan and France, but his powers seemed to have waned. He was signed by Narbonne in January, after a year off, as medical cover for Australian Rocky Elsom.
Collins had an increasingly troubled personal life after international rugby and, in 2003, was arrested in a department store in Hamamatsu, Japan, for carrying a concealed kitchen knife.
With strong family support, he managed to put his life back on track with his wife Alana and Ayla.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman