ALL BLACK legend Jerry Collins will not make a final decision on a possible move to a northern hemisphere club until he returns to New Zealand following tomorrow’s Barbarians clash against England at Twickenham.
Collins is wanted by Heineken Cup champions Munster after securing an early release from his contract with the New Zealand Rugby Union, so ending his 48-cap international career.
Collins is adamant that all options are open — including quitting rugby altogether — but he will not be rushed into a decision.
Munster officials are said to be monitoring the situation and are keen to discuss terms with the 27-year-old.
But having already lost coach Declan Kidney to Ireland and forwards coach Jim Williams to the Wallabies, Munster’s first priority is to tie down a management team for next season. Kidney may be keen to take Munster defence and backs coach Tony McGahan with him to the Irish set-up, but it is felt that the Australian would opt for the No 1 job in Munster if offered it. That scenario is becoming more likely by the day and it is also felt that fitness coach Paul Darbyshire would be able to divide his time between Munster and Ireland next season.
Munster sources say they are aiming to have an announcement on a new coach within two weeks. While Michael Bradley is given little chance of replacing Kidney as Munster No 1, an impressive performance on the tour to New Zealand and Australia with Ireland could see him in the frame for a secondary position with the European champions.
Collins said: “It’s all speculation,” he said. “I haven’t been formally offered anything at the moment. I haven’t sat down with anyone or gone through anything. I’ve just come over here to play for the Barbarians.
“In order for me to obtain my release it would have been wrong for me to have been negotiating with other clubs.
“It took me a while to get my release and I thought about it for a long time. I’m going to thoroughly think about things and not jump straight into the next thing and tie myself up. When I get home I’ll have the time to sit back and weigh up what I want to do.”
He added: “I left my mobile phone at home so I could come here and enjoy playing with these guys — but I suppose I’ll have a lot of missed calls when I get back.”
Insisting he is not ruling out the possibility that he could reject all rugby offers, he said: “I might go home and look in the mirror and not want to play rugby. It’s always easy to do the same thing but people change their work all the time. I suppose that’s the scary part but I’ve no regrets. I’m pretty happy with what I’ve achieved.”
The All Blacks face Michael Bradley’s Ireland next Saturday and despite the loss of big names Carl Hayman, Luke McAlister, Byron Kelleher, Doug Howlett, Chris Jack, Anton Oliver and Aaron Mauger to European clubs, Collins is confident their renowned production line will provide new stars.
“They always do. That’s the great thing about New Zealand. They never run out of players. They keep churning them out,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chris Masoe has not demanded an early termination of his contract according to his agent Bruce Sharrock.
Reports yesterday claimed Masoe had been so upset at learning of his omission from a New Zealand wider training squad via a phone message that he wanted out of his NZRU deal. It is understood there was some initial interest from Munster in Masoe, who is comfortable in any of the back row positions, but they are in the market for an out-and-out blindside or No 8, and Collins is a far better fit.
Sharrock explained: “Chris is not seeking an early release. He’s had a release option in his contract for the past two years and whether or not he exercises that remains to be seen.”
Masoe, and another client of Sharrock, All Blacks discard Piri Weepu, are however, looking at overseas options.
“These type of players have people knocking on the door anyway so what we do is re-ignite the interest and see if it’s genuine,” said Sharrock.
Fly-half Jimmy Gopperth, wing Hosea Gear and loose forward Thomas Waldrom are also believed to be considering their futures.
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