Danny Collins and the Privilege of Being a Free Jack
New England's Danny Collins is very much the definition of a Boston rugby player. First picking up a rugby ball when joining the Boston Irish Wolfhounds youth program, he went on to achieve multiple All-American honors in high school before becoming a first team regular for the Wolfhounds.
Joining the Free Jacks as part of their exhibition season in 2019, the man affectionately referred to as 'switchy' has remained part of the teams plans ever since.
Making his first appearance of the season last weekend in the 32-0 win over Houston in Texas, Danny sat down to talk all things Free Jacks ahead of their long-awaited home opener.
The wing from Abbington, MA
Today, fans of the Free Jacks will finally get to see their professional rugby team play a home game. With the 2020 season cut short as a result of the coronavirus, this weekend will see Union Point Stadium host the side in an MLR fixture for the first time.
A momentous occasion for the team, it will feel especially special for Danny. Born and raised in Abbington, Massachusetts, Danny's commute to the stadium isn't far at all, with just one and a half miles between his home and the venue in Weymouth.
"Five years ago, I was playing in local derbies against Mystic River and Boston Rugby Club, and I thought that was going to be the height of my rugby career," Danny said.
"I was perfectly fine with that, I was happy to do that, but being able to play with these guys and these world class coaches, it's something I never would have dreamed of. So, I remind myself of that every single day.
"I'm so excited, man. This is such a proud rugby community, and of top of that, they know their rugby. There are a bunch of people from the surrounding clubs, Mystic River, Boston Irish Wolfhounds, South Shore, Boston Rugby Club and they're very passionate.
"They know their rugby and it is awesome to play in front of. A couple of years ago now, we had the Cara Cup, when the Irish provincial sides came over, and those games were incredible. Just to play in front of passionate fans, it is so fun, and it is a privilege."
Learning from his surroundings
Danny and his teammates come into this weekend's game against Utah Warriors having gotten their second win in MLR last weekend. Their first win came in Las Vegas over a year ago when the team stunned their nearest geographical rivals, New York, in their first MLR game.
Losing four games after that, New England finished the 2020 season as the league's top try scorers and it was clear that something was building in the North-East. Now with the highly regarded Ryan Martin as their head coach, the side have again impressed in their opening two games this season.
Losing to LA 27-42 on the opening weekend, before beating the SaberCats last time out. Undeterred by the loss to the Giltinis, Danny says that the team's mentality following that defeat was a big part of why they were able to get up and running for the 2021 season.
"That loss in LA was obviously disappointing, but the guys just said, 'next job' and I saw first-hand how professionals act after a loss," Danny said. "This may have been something we didn't fully have last year, but you had to see how quickly guys flipped that switch.
"There was a meeting straight after the game and we said we'd put a pin in it and that was that. From that day on we were on to Houston and I think that's what you saw in the result on Saturday."
During the extended offseason, New England recruited several highly experienced professionals, the likes of Wian Conradie, Tera Mtembu, Jack Ram and Dougie Fife just some of the recent arrivals.
Having roomed Scotsman, Fife, at the weekend in Texas, Danny described how he is always asking his teammates for advice in order to challenge himself more and more each day.
"I was rooming with Dougie Fife and I was thinking to myself how I used to watch this guy in the Six Nations," Danny said. "He was probably sick of me by the end of the weekend because I had been asking him so many questions.
"If I get an opportunity like that, I am going to fire away. I fired a million questions at him, he was happy to answer, he'll help you with anything. It is an awesome group to be part of and I am loving it."
You can watch this weekend's game between the New England Free Jacks and Utah Warriors live on CBSSN in the United States and on The Rugby Network for overseas fans.
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Major League Rugby Stories from April 3, 2021
- Round Three Preview - MLR
- Danny Collins and the Privilege of Being a Free Jack - New England Free Jacks
- Arrows Gameday: First Clash with Old Glory DC - Toronto Arrows
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