Former All Black Jerry Collins has died with his partner Alana Madill in a car accident this afternoon.

The crash happened at 3:10am French time in the department of Herault along the highway near Béziers on the way to the city of Montpellier.

The Herald understands Ms Madill was driving at the time of the crash and Collins was in the backseat.

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Their baby daughter has been taken to Montpellier hospital in a critical condition.

Collins had been in Canet-en-Roussillon attending a testimonial banquet for Samoan rugby player Henry Tuilagi who plays for Perpignan.

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He had been driving home along the A9 motorway in direction of Beziers.

Emergency workers said Collins stopped his car by the side of the road, they think for 'technical reasons'.

Collins was then attempting to pull back into the traffic when his car was hit by a bus with 21 people on board. Collins' car was apparently thrown about 10 metres.

Collins and his partner died instantly. The two bus drivers then freed the baby girl from the car. The girl, born 26.1.15, is in a critical condition in hospital.

Jerry Collins and his wife have been killed in a car accident in France. Photo / Twitter, Amarger Jean-Pierre
Jerry Collins and his wife have been killed in a car accident in France. Photo / Twitter, Amarger Jean-Pierre

Two of the bus passengers received moderate injuries.

The passengers on the bus are being given counseling.

The drivers of the bus are reported to be in shock as a result of the drama and have been taken to hospital in Béziers to be checked over.

A minute's silence was held before tonight's Super Rugby match between the Hurricanes, Collins' former team, and the Highlanders in Napier.

Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph, who coached Collins at Wellington said it was horrible.

"I guess for me he epitomises the word tough and the game of rugby and I just really feel for his family."

Before the match Hurricanes assistant coach Richard Watt did a shout out to Collins and his family from the boys.

"Jerry was one of the toughest guys who ever put this jersey on and we know that. We're going to play in his honour tonight. This is a shout out to his family- we're thinking about you and [you have our] love and prayers."

Jerry Collins played 48 tests for the All Blacks and had three tests as captain. Photo / Herald on Sunday
Jerry Collins played 48 tests for the All Blacks and had three tests as captain. Photo / Herald on Sunday

As the Hurricanes took the field Justin Marshall reflected on his time with Collins.

"I was there when Jerry made his All Black debut. It's a travesty for the rugby world. He's one of us, he's an All Black and he will be missed, terribly missed; gone too young.

"It's a sad loss and we certainly offer our deepest sympathies as a rugby community to Jerry and Alana's family and wish them all the very best."

Ma'a Nonu scored two tries tonight. After one of his tries, he pointed to the sky and appeared to say the word "brother.''

New Zealand rugby has also issued a statement expressing their shock and sadness.

"The news has shocked us all and our thoughts are with Jerry and Alana's families at this terribly sad time. We offer our deepest condolences to them and will support them as they come to terms with this devastating news," New Zealand Rugby General Manager Rugby Neil Sorensen said.

Jerry Collins' long-standing manager Tim Castle, speaking on behalf of the family said: "The family and I are distraught at the death of a much-loved son, brother and friend, and his partner Alana, whom I got to know recently.

"I have been in touch with Jerry's father Frank and other members of his family who are in Samoa at the moment. It's obviously a terribly difficult time for them and together with New Zealand Rugby we are doing all we can to support them.

"I have also been in touch with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who are also doing everything they can to ensure that baby Ayla is getting all the care and support she needs. I am very grateful for their support.

"The family would also like to thank everyone for their messages of support and have asked for privacy at this time."

Officials at Collin's club, Narbonne, said they would not be issuing a statement immediately.

An official at the club told the Herald they were waiting for more information from police before issuing a statement.

The official said everybody at the club was in a state of shock following the accident.

Players from the club would be getting together this afternoon (French time).

French rugby Club Toulon issued a statement saying the club was in mourning following the announcement of the death of Collins.

The Toulon rugby Club, who Collins played for in the 2008/09 season, expressed their most sincere condolences to his loved ones. The Toulon players will wear arm bands during their semifinal against the club Stade Francais.

The Prefect in Bezier confirmed to the Herald that a police and judicial investigation into the accident has been opened.

Tributes are flowing in on social media for Collins and his partner.

Collins, age 34, was born in Apia, Samoa.

He played 48 tests for the All Blacks and had three tests as captain.

Collins made his All Blacks debut in 2001, the same year he first played for the Wellington Hurricanes. Prior to that, he had been playing for Wellington in the NPC since 1999.

Collins retired from international rugby in 2008, and went on to play in Europe and Japan.

Most recently he had signed with French club Narbonne, in January.

When Collins joined Narbonne there was some early criticism that, at the age 34, he was over the hill, but within a few months he had silenced doubters,.

In April, Narbonne trainer Jean-Francois Beltran said Collins "is going up a gear every time he goes out on the pitch and he has swept aside any doubts. He has brought Narbonne the raw power that it needed."

He also pointed to Collins' ability to go from defence to counter-attack: "This is where you see that he still has those top-flight abilities."