8 Jun 2015

Narbonne pays tribute to Jerry Collins

7:24 am on 8 June 2015

About 1500 people have marched in silence around Narbonne in a tribute to former All Black Jerry Collins, who was on the books of the southern French city's rugby club when he died in a car crash.

The 34-year-old Collins and his partner Alana Madill died instantly in Friday's crash and their baby daughter Ayla is in a critical condition in hospital.

Jerry Collins announces his retirement from first-class rugby in 2008.

Jerry Collins announces his retirement from first-class rugby in 2008. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Organisers said almost 1,500 people, many wearing the orange strip of the 34 year-old New Zealander's club Racing Club Narbonne Mediterranee, walked in silence behind a photograph of the family.

A three-metre tall image of Collins, who captained his country three times, was also installed outside the 13th century Archbishops Palace in Narbonne's historic centre.

Southwest France is a strong rugby region and the adopted home of many former and current international players.

Chris Masoe, Collins's cousin who plays for nearby Toulon, attended the rally in Narbonne.

In Perpignan on Saturday, a retirement testimonial for Samoan Henry Tuilagi became a memorial match for Collins instead.

The Narbonne President Anthony Hill says numerous former All Blacks have contacted the club to offer their support and pay homage to their countryman.

Narbonne, who play in France's second division, had been in danger of relegation before Collins arrived.

The 48 times-capped forward and his wife Alana Madill died in a collision on the A9 motorway in the Herault region of southern France.

According to local media reports, their car was hit by a bus. An autopsy on Madill, who was driving at the time, is due to be conducted today to help determine the cause of the accident.

Police told local media that the couple's three month-old daughter, Ayla, was in a critical but stable condition in hospital in Montpelier.

After his All Blacks career, which ran from 2001 to 2007, Collins also played for Toulon and for the Ospreys in Wales and became a fixture in the northern hemisphere game.

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