New Zealand brings out the best in flanker Collett

Connor Collett in action for North Harbour in New Zealand.
Connor Collett in action for North Harbour in New Zealand.
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A young player from Holme, near Yaxley, has achieved the rare feat of playing in a New Zealand provincial rugby final - something only a few Engishmen have ever done.

Connor Collett, a 20-year-old tackling machine, played for North Harbour against Otago in the Mitre 10 Championship final in Dunedin.

And the openside flanker played a starring role in the 17-14 win which takes North Harbour into the Premiership next season.

And the big win capped an outstanding year for the former Stamford School first XV captain as a week earlier he received the team’s player of the year award and the prize for most tackles in a season.

After spending a short time at the Northampton Saints Academy and then with Midlands Division One club Kettering, Collett decided a few months in New Zealand would be just the ticket for his game. And that has most definitely been the case. He’s come on leaps and bounds during his two-year stay Down Under and his place at Newcastle University is still on hold.

Collett is not a big man but his workrate and defence are considered exceptional by his coach Steve Jackson. He is likened to former England flanker Joe Worsley, who tackled all day long and won 78 caps for his country.

“It’s true, workrate and defence are the main parts of my game, “ said Collett, “but this year I’ve worked to push my attack a lot more.

“It’s been a massive year for me. I was only supposed to be here for six months, just to get more experience, but I’ve extended it as it’s been going so well,

“The culture is fantastic. It’s probably one of the best clubs I’ve been to, even back in England.”

Coach Jackson said: “Connor has learned to carry the ball a bit more, but his defensive efforts have been quite outstanding. And his workrate - his ability to make tackles, carry the ball and get to his feet - is phenomenal.

“Connor came to New Zealand because he wasn’t getting an opportunity at the club he was at in England, and just look at him now. It won’t be long before someone knocks on his door and says come home for a decent crack.”

New Zealand Herald rugby writer Campbell Burnes added: “Collett will one day be picked up by a UK Premiership club and one day, who knows, he might return to New Zealand wearing the white jersey and the red rose of England.”