Jerry Collins will once again lead the Ospreys into action on Saturday afternoon, after taking the armband for the first time in last month's LV= Cup game at Bath.
After regular skipper Ryan Jones came back from international duty carrying a back injury that has so far prevented him from returning to Ospreys action Collins has continued in the role, captaining the side in last weekend’s 19-14 win over Munster at the Liberty Stadium, and he will be captain again when they face Viadana on Saturday in the Heineken Cup.
Whilst honoured to have been handed the captaincy, in his typical low-key way Collins plays down his role at the region, saying that the important factor isn’t who is captain for the day, it is that everybody in the squad takes responsibility for their own duties. He commented:
“The captaincy issue is just a reflection of where we are at this stage of the season I suppose. November sees us missing a lot of players, and December and January are pretty heavy months, with Heineken Cup games and local derbies and inevitably there will be some casualties among the squad, which means that the coaches have had to look around at different captaincy options.
“We’re a very experienced squad here, there are a number of players who have been there and done it for the region and for their country, so I suppose the coaches could have gone to any number of them to be captain. It’s always an honour to be asked to be captain. I’ve been fortunate enough to captain my country in the past, so it’s certainly not a new experience to me.
“It won’t make any difference to the way I approach the game or the way I deal with the rest of the squad. My main focus will be on getting my job done, doing the right thing for the team, as it always is, and I’d expect the other guys to be the same. I think it’s important that everybody takes responsibilities for their own duties and concentrates on what they have to do their job properly. By pulling together, I’m sure we can get a positive performance and result out in Viadana and throughout the next few weeks which are very important for us.”
Collins arrived in Ospreylia with a reputation as a hard-hitting, physical player, strong in defence and able to make the hard yards. It’s a reputation that he has been living up to in recent weeks, putting in some inspirational performances, and he says that now that he has firmly settled in the region following his summer switch from Toulon, it is reflecting on the pitch:
“Having come to this environment, particularly having spent so long in one place before last year, one thing that helps a player do well and play better for the team, is when people actually want you here. That’s a big part of it, and at the Ospreys, I’ve been made to feel welcome and people here have been very good to me. I’m not just talking about within the group here, which is pretty close knit, but around the place in general. It’s been very welcoming and makes you feel pretty good to be here.
“Rugby-wise, I suppose it does take a while to get used to the way everyone plays, how everyone operates. Obviously, the Welsh mentality is different to the New Zealand mentality, and it’s just a case of getting used to everything. From a positional point of view, the most important thing is to settle in well on the field and I think that apart from the first few weeks when I’d just got here, I’ve been pretty much building well into it. The results haven’t been consistent, they’ve not been as great as maybe we would have wanted, but it’s been a difficult start to the season with players coming back at different stages of the season, the Lions and internationals, and then the players going away last month. I suppose if you are all together all season long then it’s much easier, but these things happen and you have to deal with the hand you’re dealt. The structure of the season doesn’t really help, and to be honest, I suppose that’s probably been one of the most difficult things to deal with. It’s difficult to build up any real energy in a competition when things stop start like they do and you can’t work with the same group of players all the way through,
“But we’ve got everybody back on deck now and we are looking forward to a big period of the season over the next six or seven weeks.”
Collins impact has been such that he currently stands as the Magners League top ball carrier so far this campaign. It’s an impressive statistic, but as always, the former All-Black is quick to play it down, saying:
“I didn’t realise that people were counting to be honest! I suppose that when you have played every weekend, and have probably played more minutes than anyone, then it stands to reason that you are going to be the top ball carrier, or thereabouts anyway. I’d like to think that I can have an influence, but I won’t get too hung up on stats. What is important, is that I play to the best of my ability and, hopefully, provide a positive influence when I’m on the pitch that can help the team. That’s far more important than worrying about who has what stat to their name.
“As a team, we are heading in the right direction, we’re into a big part of the season now and we’ve just got to get the right results. Last week against Munster was a start but we have to follow that up with the back-to-back games against Viadana. If we can put a few good performances together it will build up excitement levels, and then we’ll be looking at some good crowds for the Blues game over Christmas and Leicester in the final European pool game.
“It’s part of our duties as players to ensure we get a few W’s next to our name, to build some momentum and create excitement among our fans. We are pretty excited ourselves, about what we are doing as players and our chances in this group after the first two games, and I’m sure that the fans share that feeling. If we can make sure we build on that, and provide them with the entertainment then I’ve no doubt that they’ll be with us in numbers. It’s about getting a recognisable style of play together effectively, and that’s what we’ve been working on this season. These things take time but the signs are positive, we are getting there.”