Rugby: Jerry Collins calls it a day (+photos)

All Blacks and Wellington stalwart Jerry Collins has announced his retirement from rugby in New Zealand.

Collins says the time was right to move on.

"Actually from today, I am unemployed," Collins, 27, told a press conference at New Zealand Rugby Union headquarters in Wellington today.

His future plans remain a mystery, perhaps even to him.

The All Blacks and Hurricanes blindside flanker's last act was to plonk over a last minute conversion in the Hurricanes' Super 14 semifinal defeat by the Crusaders on Saturday.

Collins was contracted to the end of next year but with NZRU and Wellington union support, managed to achieve the "dignified exit" he desired.

He also pointed out that a player could not negotiate with other (overseas) clubs while contracted to the NZRU.

"This is something that I have thought about for a while.

"I have played 10 years in one province, it's a hard place to leave having earned my bread here.

"But it's something everybody goes through - you sit at your desk and wonder could I be somewhere else but those thoughts pass and you never change.

"I've just decided that it is probably the right time for me to bow out and I didn't make lightly. It is something I am happy with."

He said the passion for the All Blacks and the Hurricanes still burned but "it was the time in between" that had led him to his decision.

"I suppose I do the majority of my thinking when I am not in camp," he said.

Collins heads to London this weekend to play for the Barbarians against England but intends to come home to play club rugby for his beloved Norths team from Porirua while he mulls things over.

Collins, who captained the All Blacks three times in the course of his 48-cap career which began in 2001 against Argentina, said he made his decision in the closing stages of the Super 14 despite not having any overseas contracts to consider.

He was not in a hurry to make a decision though it might mean having to get a job for a couple of months.

"I am not in any rush to get out of the country."

NZRU chairman Jock Hobbs warmly praised Collins for his contribution to New Zealand rugby for the past 10 years.

"We are sorry to see him go, but respect his wishes and have reached agreement on his release given his length of service and personal circumstances."

All Blacks coach Graham Henry said Collins impressed most by the way he worked at other aspects of his play and developed into a far more complete player.

All Blacks forwards coach Steve Hansen said Collins had always been his own man and done things his own way, and that way had served the All Blacks well over the last seven years.

Collins has played 47 times for the Hurricanes and coach Colin Cooper said he had put his body on the line without a complaint.

"Whatever he chooses to do in the future, I'm sure he will be successful, as he has so much ability and the determination to work hard and get results."

Collins is the 10th All Black since last year's World Cup to call time as an international.

Aaron Mauger, Chris Jack, Luke McAlister, Carl Hayman, Anton Oliver, Doug Howlett and Byron Kelleher are already playing in Europe while Reuben Thorne is heading to Japan and Nick Evans to England.

NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said Collins' decision was no surprise.
"Last time we re-signed Jerry, it took a long conversation to make sure he made the right decision and we always knew there would be a day Jerry would move on."

He said the NZRU did not grant early release from contracts as a matter of course but would take each case on its merits.

"It comes at a time when we can least afford to lose experience, it hurts, but coaches will say to you it opens a door for another player."

Collins was confident any player who succeeded him would do as good or better than him in the All Blacks.

- NZPA

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