Ollie Hassell-Collins aims for domestic and international success
The 2021/22 Premiership season was a memorable one for London Irish winger Ollie Hassell-Collins in which he scored 10 tries and helped Irish to eighth, their best league finish since 2012.
Hassell-Collins, a former St Bart’s student, was part of an Irish side that also reached the final of the Premiership Cup, losing out to Worcester in extra time, and the quarter-final of the Challenge Cup.
It was a stellar season for Hassell-Collins, 23, in which he went from strength to strength both on and off the pitch – he made 22 clean breaks, the second most in the league, gained 1,760 metres and developed into “a leader in the dressing room”.
Hassell-Collins, who has been with Irish since he was 16, said: “I’ve grown in confidence as my game has matured and developed and I’m at the age now where I can help some of the younger boys.
“Last season was a massive step forwards and I’m still quite young, I still want to improve, there’s so much more to learn.”
Hassell-Collins was included in the England squad for the 2022 Six Nations but missed out on selection for this summer’s internationals.
He said: “It was huge to be in the squad for the Six Nations, it’s impossible not to go in there and learn something.
“The environment, the coaches, the players, it’s just awesome to be around.
“Eddie Jones said to me he wants to see me use my power and my build a bit more, to break the tackles a bit easier, so that’s what I’ll be working on in the gym and with the coaches at Irish.”
Hassell-Collins began his career at Newbury R.F.C, following in the footsteps of his father, Neil, who was a prop at Monks Lane.
He grew up in the era of Brian O’Driscoll, Jonny Wilkinson and Dan Carter but idolised Barcelona’s Ronaldinho – an unusual choice, perhaps, but it does help to explain the flair the characterises his game.
“When I was younger, I didn’t watch loads of rugby, I mostly just watched highlights,” he said.
“Ronaldinho stood out to me because of the flair he brought to football, he was so skilful.
“It’s a different sport but I think it inspired me to try to be exciting on a rugby pitch.”
Looking ahead to next season, Hassell-Collins will be hoping he can impress again and help Irish challenge for the top six.
“There’s not been too much change, which is good, we won’t set specific targets but I think next season we can really kick on, I’m excited to see what we can achieve,” he said.
Next season will doubtless be all about Irish for Hassell-Collins but he'll be hoping another successful season might lead to an English debut, too.