Former New Zealand rugby captain Jerry Collins has been killed in a car crash in France. A bus hit the car of the ex-All Black and his partner, killing both. Collins led winning teams against Romania and Portugal.
Collins, a new recruit of rugby club Narbonne in France's second division, died in a collision early on Friday on the A9 motorway near Herault, according to the newspaper "Le Figaro."
The couple's infant daughter survived but with critical injuries, and was taken to a hospital in Montpellier.
New Zealand media named Collins' wife as Alana Madill and their child as Ayla.
Local officials quoted by the French news agency AFP said their car came to an unexpected stop on the highway. The driver of the bus, which was carrying Portuguese tourists, was lightly injured.
Captained three wins
Collins, 34, had played 48 international test matches for the New Zealand's national rugby union team, the All Blacks.
Samoa-born Collins made his debut in 2001 and led the All Blacks as captain three times: against Argentina in 2006 and against Portugal and Romania in 2007.
The All Blacks' official website described Collins as one of its "toughest and most uncompromising" forwards.
"His ferocious tackling and intimidating presence made him feared by every opponent," it said.
Disbelief among colleagues
Past and present All Blacks responded with shock and disbelief on social media to the death of their former teammate known as JC.
"Struggling to think that it's happened.. dont want to believe it!!," World Cup winner Piri Weepu tweeted.
Veteran Keven Mealamu simply said: "Don't want to believe it" while All Blacks winger Cory Jane tweeted "RIP hitman".
Final test in Cardiff
Collins played his final test in 2007 in a shock defeat to France in Cardiff during the World Cup series.
He left New Zealand in 2008 for spells with Toulon in France, the Welsh side the Ospreys, and then in Japan with Yamaha.
Most recently he played for Narbonne in French rugby's second division.
Collins began his career in a New Zealand schoolboy representative team in 1997.
ipj/msh (AFP, Reuters)