It just isn’t a topic typically aired in worldwide males’s rugby union however, hey, it’s 2023, child. So right here goes: can nail polish enhance athletic efficiency? Within the view of Ollie Hassell-Collins, about to win his second cap for England, there is no such thing as a doubt about it. “Completely,” he murmurs as we each gaze down at his pink and white painted fingernails. “Look good, really feel good, play good. I’m a robust believer in it.”
Good on the personable London Irish wing for having the braveness of his convictions. It isn’t so way back that England dressing rooms had been stuffed with unobtrusive black boots and keep-your-head-down reticence. Hassell-Collins, together with his patriotic nail artwork and Harry Potter-loving snitch tattoo on his arm, resides, respiration proof of the brand new orthodoxy.
The extra time you spend with the shyly endearing, idiosyncratic 24-year-old, the extra you start to surprise if he and his girlfriend Eloise, a authorized secretary, are colourfully pointing the way in which forward for hundreds of thousands of diffident younger athletes throughout all sports activities. Hassell-Collins has been an England longing for a while however, coincidence or not, it is just since he pledged to be more true to himself that his large break has arrived.
It helps, after all, that he additionally has the bodily attributes to be a standout Check participant. Tall, sturdy, defensively hard-working and the possessor of a strong left boot, it’s undoubtedly in England’s pursuits to provide him the ball. Steadily, although, he’s realising that his on-field mindset is inextricably tied to his private self-image. “If I’m going out on the pitch feeling like I look the half it offers me confidence,” he says merely. “I really feel that after I get the ball I can do something.”
Therefore the nails. When he first talked about it to Eloise the suggestions was instantly optimistic. “My girlfriend gave me numerous confidence to attempt it. She’d say: ‘Simply do it.’ And I type of favored it. It simply grew from there. Beforehand I’d thought of it however by no means really did it. I don’t anticipate each rugby participant will probably be portray their nails any time quickly however it’s simply me. It’s the way in which I’m. I don’t see any level in altering that.”
Possibly it additionally helps having all of the Netflix documentary cameras round: if you wish to get your identify on the market it helps to return throughout as barely completely different. Hassell-Collins, because it occurs, additionally possesses three cats – one in every of them referred to as Albus after the headmaster of Hogwarts – whom he takes out for walks and clearly dotes upon. “You come dwelling after a win or a loss they usually’re nonetheless going to wish to cuddle you.”
However while you hear from those that have identified Hassell-Collins from manner again they converse not of a mildly eccentric dandy however somebody who absolutely deserves every thing good coming his manner. “I’ve received three children with a fourth on the way in which however my daughter says Ollie is my favorite son,” chuckles Declan Danaher, London Irish’s assistant coach who has identified him since he was 15 and was the recipient of a particular post-game hug at Twickenham final weekend.
“Folks see all of the fantastic issues now – his sensible carrying, high-ball expertise, that left boot – however it’s taken not less than eight years and loads of highs and lows to get right here. Typically individuals don’t see what’s happening beneath the water. I understand how a lot it means to Ollie and the way onerous he’s labored.” And if vibrant nails additionally assist, why not? “Plenty of it’s concern, isn’t it?” confirms Danaher. “Should you’re glad and cozy in your personal pores and skin, you’re all the time going to play higher.”
The lengthy street from Newbury RFC, the place his father Neil as soon as performed within the entrance row, has additionally been an sometimes winding one. At one level he even stopped enjoying rugby. “I took a 12 months out and performed soccer however I couldn’t get behind it. Dad wasn’t glad both. He wouldn’t watch the video games.”
Ultimately, although, he started to develop and was picked up by Irish’s well-run academy. “I used to be fairly a late bloomer. Should you have a look at somebody like Louis Rees-Zammit his progress has been unbelievable. It took me some time to get the maturity and perception in myself, my dimension and my energy. Dec and James Lightfoot-Brown at Irish would say: ‘Simply run and check your self.’ I believe I’ve now reached some extent the place I’m making my mark on every recreation.”
Even so, as the primary Exiles participant to begin a Check for England since 2014, his debut final Saturday towards Scotland was past even his long-held goals. “I’m nonetheless struggling to place into phrases how I felt. Usually I’d be listening to some music … it often begins mellow and will get a bit tougher nearer to kick-off. However just a few of the boys instructed me to take off my earphones to listen to the noise as we walked by way of the crowds to the altering rooms. There was numerous delight going round. I’m going to do not forget that day for the remainder of my life.”
The following step, as he freely admits, is to get on the ball extra and present precisely what he can do at Italy’s expense on Sunday. “I wish to use my super-strength which is my carry, breaking tackles and getting over the gainline.”
Having seen Duhan van der Merwe – “Truthful play to him, it was a hell of a attempt” – and the Azzurri’s elusive full-back Ange Capuozzo steal the limelight final week, he would clearly love to go away related scorch-marks throughout the Twickenham turf.
Danaher can also be wanting ahead to seeing him show his defensive starvation. “He’s probably one of the vital aggressive defenders I’ve ever coached. I can’t consider anybody, even after I performed, who could possibly be that damaging within the sort out.”
Regardless of the odds, his protegé is set to do it his manner. “Not everybody’s like me by way of how they specific themselves. However for those who have a look at Capuozzo, he’s a implausible instance. Small, not very heavy however completely tearing it up.” Maintain an eye fixed out for Hassell-Collins. You’ll spot him simply sufficient.