From the luck of the Irish to the eye of the Tigers for local lad Hassell-Collins
Leicester Tigers newest recruit Ollie Hassell-Collins is set to bring pace, power and pizazz to the 11-time Premiership champions.
And that’s not all – the 24-year-old will also be bringing his three beloved cats, Albus, Betsy and Marmalade, his now trademark nail polish and a refreshing approach to how he engages with fans that includes keeping them up to date on social media sites YouTube and TikTok.
From painted pinkies to the Premiership giants, Hassell-Collins is one of the most unique and personable individuals in sport.
“I know it’s not for everyone, but it’s me, it’s who I am,” he said.
“The cats are coming with me, of course, that’s the first thing I thought about when Leicester came calling.”
The exciting winger, a former St Bart’s student, made his name at embattled London Irish and admits it’ll be a bittersweet feeling when he swaps West London for the East Midlands.
Having come through the ranks at Newbury, Hassell-Collins joined the Exiles as a teenager and has gone on to make over 100 appearances, establishing himself as one of the Premiership’s most sought-after backs and making his England debut in February.
He said: “It’s an emotional time, it was a difficult decision but I think now is the right time for a change.
“I love the club and I’ll always follow them.
“There’s some incredible coaches, James Lightfoot Brown and Dec Danaher, that have been there since I got to the club and have made me the player and person I am today.
“Dec Kidney has given me pretty much all of my caps, so I owe him a lot.
“It hasn’t quite sunk in, I’m leaving with a lot of pride.”
With Irish rumoured to be embroiled in off-field financial troubles, when Premiership giants Leicester came calling, their offer proved too tempting to resist for all parties.
“To be honest, I thought I’d be staying at Irish, but Leicester are impossible to ignore,” Hassell-Collins said.
“It’s a chance to test myself in a new environment and freshen things up.
“Leicester are the biggest club in England, with one of the best stadiums.
“It’s a chance to play in front of 20,000 people, it was hard to say no to that.
“I’ve played with a few of their players, Freddie Steward and Jack van Poorvliet for example, in the England set-up.
“Then there’s people like Handre Pollard and Jasper Wiese, it’s such an exciting squad.”
Hassell-Collins made his England debut under new head coach Steve Borthwick in their Six Nations opener with Scotland and won a second cap the following week in a win over Italy.
However, having lost his place after picking up a knock and failing to regain it when he recovered, it’s unclear whether he's in Borthwick’s plans for September’s World Cup in France.
“I’d love to be involved,” he said.
“All I can do is recover well over the summer and hit the ground running when I start with Leicester.
“I’ve got a taste for it now and think I’ve learned a lot from the experience, it would be fantastic.”