‘Where my loyalties lie’

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Queenstown-raised professional rugby player Michael Collins is nothing if not loyal.

Despite talk he’s heading back to Wales after a successful stint with the Llanelli-based Scarlets in 2015-16, he’s re-signed for a third season with New Zealand’s worst-performing Super Rugby franchise, the Auckland-based Blues.

And he’s about to play another season for Otago’s Mitre Cup team, and has signed on for next year, too.

After that, yes, he could head back to Welsh club rugby and try to win selection for Wales, for whom he qualifies through a Welsh grandfather.

However, he tells Mountain Scene during a recent break in Queenstown: “It’s probably not something I’m targeting specifically, but we’ll just see how things pan out.

“If I was just going there to [try to] play international rugby, it would probably be the wrong option.”

The former NZ under-20 player says he re-signed with the Blues because he thinks they’re on the cusp of turning the corner.

As to whether he’d consider the Dunedin-based Highlanders, Collins says: “I’ve shown more loyalty to the Blues probably because [coach] Tana Umaga plucked me out of nowhere and gave me a chance. You don’t want to rule out anything, but at the moment I’m pretty happy up there and enjoying trying to change that club.”

Despite their horror season, the 25-year-old says “we were lucky we were quite tight-knit and the boys got on really well”.

A fullback who also plays centre, he feels he also fits into the Blues backline.

“There’s a lot of big ball-carriers and X-factor players, and I’m probably opposite to that, so you can offer something different.”

Asked how he keeps up with fleet-footed Rieko Ioane, he jokes: “I don’t bother, I stand back at the 50-metre line.”

Collins, meanwhile, is looking forward to rejoining Otago for the national provincial champs after missing last season due to injury. Having first played for them as a teenager, he can’t see himself playing for any other NZ team.

“I’d have felt pretty bad if I’d switched – Otago’s my home province.”

He says a big reason for staying put is that his former Otago Boys’ High coach, Ryan Martin, is the team’s new backs coach.

“I like what he does, and he did a lot for me when I was younger.

“He’s pretty eccentric and pretty enthusiastic, and is not afraid to give stuff a go, and I quite like that.”

Collins, who intends finishing his commerce degree this year, says he owns a house in Dunedin and might buy another one.

Asked if he’d buy in Queenstown, where his father Kelvin is a prominent realtor, he quips: “I’m not a multi-millionaire yet.”