The London Irish wing is one of 21 uncapped players named in England's squad for this summer's Tests. He talks speed, sevens and the Golden Snitch with Rugby World
Inside the Mind of Ollie Hassell-Collins
Among several names to catch the eye in the England squad announced today is Ollie Hassell-Collins. The 6ft 4in London Irish wing has made a chart-topping 37 clean breaks in this season’s Gallagher Premiership, scored six tries and covered 995 metres with ball in hand – the third-highest figure in the competition.
Related content: 21 uncapped players named in England squad
Only 22 years old, the former Newbury player is part of a dangerous back three with long-term buddies Ben Loader and Tom Parton. He’s also central to many of the club’s strike plays. “He’s become a focal point for London Irish,” says ex-England wing Ugo Monye.
We caught up with Hassell-Collins recently for an Inside the Mind of article that was published in our June 2021 issue. Here’s what he had to say…
“Ronaldinho, the Brazilian striker at Barcelona, was a hero of mine growing up. Jonah Lomu too, for the way he changed the game, and at the moment I enjoy watching Cheslin Kolbe for his footwork. I watch NRL players, like Latrell Mitchell. He’s been tearing NRL up, so I watch and wonder if I could take some of those parts and add it in to my game.”
“Being tall I used to play second-row, I was pushed into the forwards. But I didn’t want to put my head in those kind of places, so I slowly moved out. I played No 8 sometimes, then it was centre, full-back, wing.”
“Me and Ben Loader used to play against each other, at school and club level. He played for Reading (Abbey) and I played for Newbury. I’ve played with Loader and Dolly (Tom Parton) at Irish since U18s, it’s cool. It helps having those guys there, they’ve been through the same thing. We’re all trying to make each other better. We’re not afraid to tell each other how it is on the pitch. And giving each other a lift as well, like ‘We’ve got this’.”
“It was awesome playing for England in the Paris Sevens (2019). We played Fiji and they were incredible – you think you’ve made a tackle but the ball has gone. I’ve always loved watching sevens, the fast pace, just exciting rugby. Me and my dad used to go to Twickenham almost every year to watch the sevens, so it was really cool to get in that environment.”
“I work on my speed as much as possible. Jonas Dodoo (sprint coach) has helped massively, even with just doing the speed drills properly.”
“Then there’s footwork, me and Loader do a lot together. James Lightfoot-Brown brought us up through the academy and has seen us grow, so after sessions we do a lot of footwork stuff with him.”
“And then there’s defensive work, the tackling. I’m trying to put on a few kilos because if you’re heavier you can be more powerful and more physical in those tackle areas.”
“I recently bought my first house. It’s in Fleet, Hampshire, half an hour from the training ground up the M3. We’ve completely renovated it. Me and my girlfriend live there but in a few years’ time we’ll hopefully rent it out. I’m doing an online property management course.”
“The best advice I’ve ever received is just to enjoy it. If there’s a day when I’m not feeling it, I remind myself that I’m doing what I love, I’ve got to enjoy this time, it’s not a long career. Especially on the pitch: if it’s not going too well, enjoy it, this is your time.”
“My favourite film is Harry Potter. The whole lot. I’ve read all the books, been to the studios. I’ve actually got a Golden Snitch tattooed on my arm. I had it done a few months ago.”
“I went on tour with Newbury to Brazil, to Rio de Janiero and Sao Paolo. It was eye-opening to see how they live in the favelas (shanty towns). We went into schools to teach kids rugby, and we played a few games. Another place I really like is Reykjavik, Iceland. I went with my girlfriend just before the first lockdown. If we go again, I think we’ll hire a car.”
“Before I did the AASE (Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence), I was a lifeguard for a summer. So I got a bit of money from that which was cool. We had a Nuffield in Newbury and I was a lifeguard there. I never had to jump in, it was the easiest money I ever made.”
“I was the Movember captain for London Irish. Quite a few of the boys did it. Theo Brophy-Clews was a good one (moustache). Matt Williams grows a good one too. And Nick Phipps.”
“I’m also part of the Rugby Against Cancer team. There’s loads of us doing it, like Mattie Williams and Ioan Lloyd down at Bristol. They’ve got a fundraiser coming up (on 26 June), the Southsea Super Social Tens.”
“My dad (Neil) coached my in my last couple of years at Newbury, U15s, U16s. The club was a five-minute walk from my house. Dad works in IT and used to play for Newbury as well, as a prop. My mum (Claire) is a hairdresser and I have a sister, Polly. They all came out to watch my England U18s debut in South Africa in 2017.”
“My nickname at London Irish is ‘Grinch’, after the Christmas film. It started at AASE and a few of those boys were signed (by London Irish), and then I got signed on, and they just started calling me Grinch. And then everybody was calling me that. It was just a downhill slope! I’m cool with it now. The more games I’ve played, the more it’s settled down.”
“I’m loving life at the club. Me and Loader like to work off our wings, try to find those seams, get out the back of forward pods. It’s just about getting the ball in our hands.”
“And our new stadium in Brentford is incredible. I can’t wait for the crowds to get in there. Even the 2,000 we had for the Sale game transformed it, so I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like when it’s packed out. St Patrick’s Day will be insane.”
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