Michael Collins: Wales-qualified centre aims to test himself on biggest stage

Michael Collins is a former New Zealand Under-20 player
Michael Collins is a former New Zealand Under-20 player
Venue: Swansea.com stadium Date: Saturday, 2 October Time: 19:35 BST
Coverage: Live BBC Radio Wales commentary on the BBC Sport website and app. Live Radio Cymru 2 commentary. Highlights on Scrum V, Sunday, BBC Two Wales and online, 3 October from 19:00 BST and later on demand

While one Ospreys debutant in Gareth Anscombe impressed in the opening league win of the season, it was another who took the man-of-the-match plaudits.

Centre Michael Collins scored two tries in the 27-23 victory against Dragons in his first league match since his summer move from New Zealand.

The 28-year-old has played for Auckland Blues and Otago Highlanders, before starting his second stint in Wales after a spell with the Scarlets in the 2015-16 season.

The good new is this midfield talent is Wales-qualified through his Llanelli grandfather, although he played for New Zealand Under-20s five times in 2013.

Wales coach Wayne Pivac was watching at Rodney Parade and was Collins’ coach during his Parc y Scarlets stay.

When asked about his Wales ambitions, Collins replied: “I guess I have always downplayed it a bit coming here, but as an athlete you always want to be competitive against the best players in the world and put yourselves in environments where you are challenging yourself.

“As cliched as it is, it’s about playing as well as I can for the Ospreys. If I fit in and doors open and I am good enough to go through them, then we will cross that bridge when we get to it.”

There is strong midfield competition with Jonathan Davies, Willis Halaholo, Nick Tompkins, Owen Watkin, Johnny Williams and George North having started as Wales centres in 2021, before you even throw in the returning Scott Williams.

Versatility always benefits selection for international squads with Collins having the ability to play full-back, although he admits centre is his preferred position.

“I definitely want to be a midfielder, it suits me at the moment,” said Collins.

“Thirteen is definitely where I want to play, but as long as I keep getting a few reps at 15 and keeping that option open.”

Whatever happens on the international stage, Collins says he always wanted to return to Wales.

“I loved my time here before, Wales is a pretty special place and rugby mad,” said Collins.

“I have fond memories at Scarlets and made some good friends out of it.

“I was 22, still contracted to Otago, when I came over for about six to seven months as a medical joker for Scott Williams and Liam Williams.

“When I was younger, I always had aspirations to play Super Rugby and I had not done that last time I was in Wales.

“If I had stayed here and not attempted to fulfil that goal, I probably would have been holding onto a bit of regret.

“Going back I managed to tick off a few goals back in New Zealand, but I always knew I wanted to come back to Wales.”

Style and substance

That ambition happened when Ospreys head coach Toby Booth contacted Collins in 2020 and sold him the vision for his side.

“With Boothy being here for about a year, you could see there was a young team and they were getting better each time,” added Collins.

“The way we are trying to play fits in with my style and if you want to come to a team you want to be able to contribute. It has worked out well.”

His contribution was in evidence as Collins cleverly crossed for the two tries against Dragons at Rodney Parade.

“It was nice to contribute, coming into a new squad you are always nervous and you want to perform and earn the respects of your team-mates,” said Collins.

“It was also nice to get an away win down there.”

Collins’ new boss Booth was glowing in his praise.

“He was great, he delivered a performance we hoped and basically showed the reason we recruited him,” said Booth.

“He added to the game-controlling side of things, he has the skills and backs himself from plays in attack and has a good kicking game.

“It was a pretty comprehensive all-round performance. He stepped up in the red zone and got himself a couple of tries. We want players who can influence a game and he did that.”

Another impressive display against Cardiff this weekend will do his international ambitions no harm.

“There’s a lot of competition, that’s why derby games are important for every player, because you are marking yourself against your competition internationally,” added Booth.

“One of the reasons Mike was keen to come to us was to put his hand up for Wales. If he performs consistently as he did last weekend, he can’t do his chances any harm.”

BBC News