Uncapped England hopeful Ollie Hassell-Collins insists that taking tips from sports outside of rugby union can give him the edge in next year’s Premiership season and, he hopes, propel him into national colours.
The 23-year-old London Irish wing has been a staple for his club but has been in and out of various England camps under national head coach Eddie Jones.
“I watch other players, and the NRL [Australian rugby league] and Aussie Rules [football],” Hassell-Collins said.
“You look at what others are doing [in other sports] and you do your research, and then you look at your opposite number and see what their habits are.
“Then you can add and test [skills] out to see if it works. It’s a little bit of trial and error.”
Hassell-Collins is key to a deep pool of back-three talent at London Irish, who finished eighth in the Premiership last year, which also includes England’s latest prospect Henry Arundell, Scotsman Kyle Rowe, who recently ruptured his knee ligaments, and Tom Parton.
Arundell set the rugby world alight with a blistering 100m try on the European stage last season and has since scored for England with his first touch in international rugby, a bruising carry-and-sidestep combo against Australia.
Irish have earned a reputation for expansive, free-spirited rugby which many neutrals admit is attractive to watch but, until this summer, it was nearly a decade since one of their players had represented England. On the tour to Australia, both Arundell and Will Joseph featured.
“It is brilliant for us as a club [to have international recognition] and those players will come back in with that experience and that confidence from the international stage,” Hassell-Collins added.
“It’s huge to get London Irish back on the map again and we’re competing again.
“It’s come from the form that we’ve had over the last couple of seasons. We’re starting to compete and starting to build our way back up.”
Hassell-Collins’ Euro adventure
In their first full season with crowds at the Brentford Community Stadium, Irish earned a spot in the Champions Cup.
They’ll face French champions Montpellier and United Rugby Championship winners the Stormers – based in Cape Town – across four weekends.
It’s the first time Irish will have faced top-flight European action since 2012 and represents an opportunity for the west London club to announce themselves again.
“I can’t wait [for the Champions Cup],” added Hassell-Collins, who has played for Irish 69 times. “Both teams won their respective leagues so it will be cool to go down to South Africa and give them a shot and then go to France and give them a shot.”
Having cemented their status as top-four contenders last year, Irish’s ambitions turn to climbing an ever more competitive Premiership table.
They begin their campaign on 10 September against one of last year’s strugglers Worcester Warriors before a pair of away games hwith Northampton Saints and Bristol Bears.
“We have got to take it week by week, get those wins first and get up there,” Hassell-Collins said.