Jerry Collins will complete the second quickest half-century of Ospreys appearances ever in Sunday's Magners League game against Connacht at the Liberty Stadium (KO 2.30pm).
The former All-Black will make gain his fiftieth Ospreys cap just 17 months and 22 days after his debut, also against Connacht, on the opening day of the 09/10 season when he scored a try in a 19-12 win at the Sportsground.
Only second row Andy Newman has achieved the landmark quicker for the Ospreys, doing it in just 17 months and 14 days after his debut in the region’s first ever competitive fixture against Ulster back in September 2003.
An influential member of the Ospreys back-row, Collins spent 2229 minutes on the field during his first season, appearing in 29 of the 31 fixtures over the course of the campaign. This season he has again been a regular fixture, with 20 outings to his credit so far. After his debut try, he has managed to touchdown a further four times in an Ospreys shirt.
Speaking about reaching his half-century this weekend, Collins commented:
“I tell you what, I knew I’d be one of the quickest to get there, I haven’t even been here for two years but I’ve played a lot of rugby for the Ospreys. I didn’t realise that it had got to 50 so quickly but I’m happy to have spent so much time on the rugby pitch. It’s what I do!
“It’s the coaches I’ve got to thank for it, they are the ones who give you the opportunity to play. It’s a big honour to get 50 for a club, but hopefully I can add to that number after this weekend and keep on adding to it.
“Coming to the Ospreys from France was purely about playing rugby. I’m happiest when I can do that. I’ve played a lot of rugby, but I’m still only 30 and I hope there’s another five years in me yet.”
Having turned 30 at the end of 2010, Collins is one of the ‘old men’ in the squad at present, helping to bring through some of the younger members in the squad that have been involved recently while the international contingent have been away, and he says that it’s a period which shows that the Ospreys are heading in the right direction:
“It’s been good working with the current squad and the results have gone well. Obviously, the coaches have got a lot of faith in the young guys and they are getting rewarded for that. They gave them their opportunity last year in the LV= Cup, a lot of these guys had a shot and although we didn’t get the results on the scoreboard, it was an important time for their development and I think what we are seeing now follows on from that experience.
“They had a taste of the big match, the coaches could look at their temperaments, and we’re another year down the line now. I suppose results this year show that the coaches have done the right thing with these kids. Sometimes people get obsessed with results, they look at results instead of effort and performance judgements, development. The younger guys involved last year put in a lot of effort together, learning moves and plays, getting used to playing at that level of competition. There may have been less ‘W’s but it’s all part of the learning process and we are starting to see the results of the work that we did last year. These guys don’t just appear overnight, we’ve been working with them as players since I first got here, the coaches knew what we had coming through.”
With last weekend’s win over Benetton Treviso taking the Ospreys back up into the play-off places, Collins says it’s a case of ‘same again’ in the coming matches:
“The next few weeks are about continuing to progress” he stressed.
“It’s a pretty simple equation, we’ve got to win enough games to get us to the top four and then stay there. Current form says we can achieve that, but we’ll only do it if we keep on playing well and doing the basics as a team, oldies like me and the youngsters. If we do that, then the play-offs are one-off games, and if we carry on playing like we will have to, to get there, then it’s about who is the best on the day.
“These boys have been fantastic over the last month and if we are going to win the Magners League this season, then it’ll be down to their efforts.”