Queenstown-raised Otago rugby player Michael Collins hopes his recent successful playing stint in Wales will take his career to new heights.
Collins, 23, plays for Otago today in a Mitre 10 Cup warm-up game against Southland at the Queenstown Events Centre, following a training camp in the resort.
Last October, following his third season for Otago, he was whisked up as injury cover for Wales’ Llanelli team - qualifying through his Welsh-born grandfather.
In a team stacked with Welsh internationals, he played about 20 games in the Pro12 competition, featuring sides from Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Italy, and the Champions Cup.
“We were leading the [Pro12] comp for ages and then fell away towards the end and ended up finishing fifth.”
Collins says playing in rugby-mad Wales was an amazing experience.
“The fans over there are pretty passionate - it’s quite funny, you can either do something good, and they’re all on your side, but as soon as you do something wrong, you’re villain number one.”
A centre-turned-no.15 for Otago, Collins played fullback for Llanelli, impressing Kiwi coach Wayne Pivac who told the South Wales Evening Post: “He has fitted into the group really well, has a good skill-set, can play in more than one position and he has added something.”
A former New Zealand under-20 player, Collins says he’s happy playing centre or fullback: “In this day and age, you’ve sort of got to be able to play more than one position to be somewhat effective in a team.”
He’s grateful for Otago letting him go to Wales, and always intended returning to honour his contract to play for them this season.
The Otago coach also let him have a break after his Welsh season: “He just said, ‘get your body right, get your mind right’, ‘cos if you’re coming straight back into it, you just wear out pretty quickly, I feel.”
Collins says he’d love to be offered a Super Rugby contract but it’s also possible he might be able to return to Wales.
“I’m pretty relaxed about it, something always seems to work out.”
Today’s game starts at 2.30pm.