Hassell-Collins is loving life in Leicester as Tigers open their account with last minute win over leaders Bath
Ollie Hassell-Collins is settling into life at 11-time Premiership champions Leicester Tigers.
The 24-year-old winger, who went to school at St Bart’s, has been a regular for Tigers since he signed in the summer prior to the collapse of former club London Irish, where he scored 200 points in 108 appearances.
Dan McKellar's side have endured a difficult start to the season, losing both of their opening Premiership encounters, but registered a first win of the new season at the weekend when they beat Bath 25-24 in dramatic circumstances.
Hassell-Collins, who impressed in the Premiership Rugby Cup – a new addition to the rugby calendar this year – and scored his first Premiership try for his new club in a narrow defeat to Sale, admits it was good to get off the mark in testing conditions on Saturday.
"We're delighted, and we're a bit relieved too," he said.
"I've been really enjoying it, especially after a win.
"We started with a couple of narrow defeats, which we weren't too happy about, but we managed to put things right.
"The conditions made things really difficult, it certainly wasn't a game for the wingers, and we had to grind it out.
"We did our jobs, and thankfully came out with the win. I'm loving life at the moment."
Jamie Shillcock, who had a stint in Japan earlier in the year after the collapse of Worcester Warriors, kicked 20 points for Tigers, including a decisive last minute penalty.
Hassell-Collins said: "We were lucky he had his kicking boots with him.
"It was a brilliant way to win a game, especially after battling so hard.
"As wingers, me and (Josh) Bassett had to make sure we got the little things right, collecting high balls and chasing kicks. It wasn't flashy - who would be a winger?"
Leicester, who finished fourth last season, made a nightmarish start to the new season when they found themselves 25-0 down to Bristol on the opening Friday. Tigers battled back to 25-14, but a 24-17 defeat to Sale the following week left them languishing towards the bottom of the table.
And while Hassell-Collins admits it hasn't been an ideal start to the new season, he feels there have been enough positive signs to suggest his new side can challenge at the right end this term.
"If you look at the Bristol game, we came back really well and showed a lot of skill and spirit," he said.
"As a team, we were very disappointed with that performance, but we managed to take a lot of positives from the second half.
"Against Sale as well, we made too many mistakes and we were a bit gutted, but we felt like there were a lot of green shoots to build on.
"It's been frustrating. We've been close, so to finally get that win against Bath meant a lot. It's a weight off our shoulders."
Tigers are set to get stronger with the return of a number of players from the World Cup. Four Leicester stars, including the impressive Freddie Steward and Ollie Chessum, were part of Steve Borthwick's England squad, who finished third after an agonising defeat to eventual champions South Africa in the semi-final.
Hassell-Collins said: "It'll be great to have them back.
"We've still got a few to come back, and it's only going to help us improve. Training will be stronger, even more intense, and there will be more competition for places. That's going to help us become better players."
Hassell-Collins made his England debut in their Six Nations defeat to Scotland, earning his second cap in the win over Italy the following week.
However, after picking up a knee injury the former Exiles man missed out on the rest of the tournament and wasn't included in the World Cup squad.
And while he admits he'd love to get back into the international mix, Hassell-Collins, who is renowned for his love of cats, Harry Potter and painting his nails, is not putting pressure on himself to catch Borthwick's attention.
"Just like when I was at Irish, I'll just keep doing what I'm doing and focusing on my club rugby," he said.
"Of course, I'd love to get back into the squad, but all I can do is try and play my best rugby and if I get called up again, amazing.
"If it doesn't happen, then that's ok. I have two England caps, I've lived the dream and I'll always have that.
"I'm just focusing on enjoying life with Leicester."
Hassell-Collins has been one of the league's outstanding wingers over the last two seasons as he helped embattled London Irish defy the odds, finishing in the top half last term despite well-publicised off-field issues.
The winger, who had been with Irish since he was a teenager, had already agreed to move to the midlands before the Exiles' liquidation, but fellow local lad Will Joseph was forced to find a new club – ending up at Harlequins – after the West London outfit folded.
Having swapped one of the league's underdogs for arguably England's biggest club, Hassell-Collins has had to come to terms with the added pressure and expectation that comes with playing Leicester.
He said: “I think the most important thing is not to think about it too much.
"There is pressure, that's undeniable, but you can't let that get to you. It's good to have that pressure, this is one of the world's biggest clubs for a reason.
"I just want to get the ball in my hands and show what I can do. That's why the coaches wanted me, and they've made me feel really confident.
"I've just got to make sure I deliver."
Leicester, who are eighth, are set to embark on a difficult month, taking on Saracens, Harlequins and Northampton in their next three.
However, Hassell-Collins is relishing the challenge as Tigers look to build on Saturday's win over league leaders Bath.
"I know from Irish how important confidence and momentum can be," he said.
"Things are starting to click, so we're hoping we can kick on from here."