What’s happening with Super Rugby import who looked in line to be part of Wales’ Six Nations plans

The words don’t come across as an attempt to sweet-talk a Wales coach into picking him.

There again, maybe that’s not Michael Collins’ style.

Maybe for him he’s either playing well enough to be considered or he’s not.

Asked about his Test ambitions, the Wales-qualified Ospreys center cuts to the chase, saying: “I said when I first came over here that if I play well enough and the opportunity arises and doors open and if I’m good enough to walk through them — but I have to be brutally honest: I’ve played pretty average over the last few weeks since coming back from injury.

“With me, it’s about getting back to form for Ospreys, playing well, contributing here and whatever happens, happens.”

It’s not every day a player offers up such a candid self-assessment.

Collins, eligible to pull on the red jersey via a Llanelli-born grandfather, joined the Ospreys last summer, having featured for Auckland Blues, Otago and the Highlanders in previous seasons, with a stint at the Scarlets in 2015-16 also on his CV .

He looked a superb pick-up for Toby Booth’s team, blessed as he was with leadership skills, experience, ability as a distributor and also as a communicator.

Back in the autumn, after a bright start at the Swansea.com Stadium region, the 28-year-old was being tipped for a potential fast-track into the Wales set-up. Wayne Pivac even name-checked him during a TV interview.

But reality then intervenes.

Collins picked up a troublesome calm injury which cost him a couple of months out of the side. He returned to action in December with a solid performance in the win over Ulster, but since then the campaign has been stop-start and his form has wavered. There have been missed tackles — not so many as to induce sleepless nights, with Collins still boasting a 92 percent tackle-completion rate in the United Rugby Championship — and Collins hasn’t been happy with the way he has been playing generally.

Maybe that’s the way it is when you were once coached by Tana Umaga and featured in the squads that contained the likes of Aaron Smith and Ben Smith. The bar tends to be set a bit higher than it is for others.

“The injury was frustrating,” Collins says, “but I guess it’s one of those things.

“I’ve been around long enough to know that while I hit a good run of form at the start, I then suffered the injury and I feel like I’ve played pretty poorly over the last couple of weeks, in terms of defence.

“It’s just about working hard and training and doing stuff to fix it. I’ve been around long enough to know that these form slumps don’t last for ever, so it’s about doing what I need to do to get out of it.

“Hopefully, I’ll then be able to contribute to the team in a good way.”

That said, he still wants to experience the highest grade of the game: “The ambition is definitely still there to play top-level rugby,” he says. “Anyone in this environment wants to test themselves against the best, and international rugby is the peak competition, so the ambition is definitely there to get better.”

Perhaps Collins is being a shade hard on himself. His head coach at the Ospreys, Toby Booth, has seen enough positives in his game to be more than happy with his contribution to date.

“He has a lot of young boys playing in the side around him and it’s been difficult because he had an injury, so it’s been stop-start,” Booth says.

“But he’s forming a great partnership with Owen Watkin and we are looking to develop the attacking side of our game. Having Michael’s distribution is great for us.

“And he’s providing leadership.

“He’ll get better the more he plays and fits in.

“He’s the signing we thought he would be. That’s the biggest compliment I can give him.”



Ospreys Center Owen Watkin

All will know the Ospreys need to improve as a team, though.

There are reasons for their current winless run, stretching back to December 4. The biggest one is an injury-list that seems never-ending. Throw in a few Covid-related issues and a match or two being postponed or even cancelled, as well as certain players going off the boil, and Booth’s problems are there in a nutshell.

And who’s that coming over the hill? It’s United Rugby Championship leaders Edinburgh, in Swansea on Saturday.

They will be missing players because of injuries and international calls, but so are the Ospreys, all 21 of them, according to Booth.

Sometimes, it seems as if we all came back 300 years from now, the Swansea.com Stadium team would still be battling injuries.

“Frustrating” is how Collins describes the past month for players, coaches and supporters, while insisting the Ospreys are looking forward to returning to United Rugby Championship rugby.

“Edinburgh will be a tough challenge because they are playing well and are top of the table for a reason,” he says. “But we’re at home and we are confident with what we’ve got and the team we can put out, so it should be a good game.”

Collins has been impressed by both Watkin, who has been called up by Wales for the Six Nations, and Keiran Williams, his midfield partners at the Ospreys. “It’s been awesome to form a relationship with Woggo (Watkin) and now Keith (Williams),” he says.

“Woggo had work-ons through the autumn from the top coach (Pivac). He’s been brilliant in the last couple of months —it’s been awesome to see.

“Now he’s getting his reward.

“I’m not a selector, but I don’t see why he wouldn’t play in the Six Nations. He’s more than good enough to. I’d love to see him have a decent crack and show what he can do.”



Michael Collins was named man of the match on his competitive Ospreys debut

There’s also praise for new boy Harri Deaves, who made a starting Ospreys debut on the openside flank against Sale Sharks last weekend.

“He’s a typical seven who puts his body on the line and does what he needs to do,” Collins says.

“We’ve had a couple of guys having opportunities and he grabbed his with both hands.

“He’s a good guy to be playing around in the team and playing with.

“So I’m stoked for him.

“It’s about backing it up now and doing it again when he gets his next opportunity.”

Collins talks like the vastly experienced player he is.

He doesn’t walk around wearing a T-shirt proclaiming ‘Form is temporary, class is permanent’.

But he understands the concept.

Form will return for Collins.

And, just maybe, such a development could yet lead to doors opening for him.

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