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London Irish statement: Ollie Hassell-Collins has joined Leicester

By Liam Heagney
Ollie Hassell-Collins on 2023 Six Nations duty with England (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

London Irish have confirmed that Ollie Hassell-Collins, their winger recently capped at Test level by England, is to leave at the end of the current season to join Leicester, their Gallager Premiership rivals. The 24-year-old was chosen by Steve Borthwick to start for his country in the opening two rounds of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations against Scotland and Italy before a knee injury made him unavailable for the round three trip to Wales.

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Director of rugby Declan Kidney was thrilled that Hassell-Collins became the first London Irish-based player to start for England in a decade, claiming it was a huge boost to the Exiles in showing that its talent doesn’t have to leave to further its Test-level ambitions.

“Players in the past thought they would have had to leave to get that (England) recognition,” enthused Kidney at the time. “The two games, he loved it. He didn’t get his hands on the ball as often as he would have hoped but that is Ollie, he just loves playing with the ball in his hands.

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“He knows he is there or thereabouts now (with England). I’m sure with his conversations with Steve and the other coaches that he will be working on little aspects of his game to get him back into the squad as soon as possible.”

However, 20 days after Kidney spoke so enthusiastically about Hassell-Collins and his England starting team breakthrough, London Irish have now admitted that the winger’s club future will happen elsewhere in the Premiership as they have been unable to convince him to sign a contract extension.

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A statement read: “London Irish can confirm the departure of Ollie Hassell-Collins from the club at the end of the 2022/23 season. Hassell-Collins progressed from the Exiles’ academy earning his first senior appearance in the 2018/19 season. The 24-year-old has since made 101 appearances for the club and amassed 215 points and 43 tries scored as an Irish player, including helping lift the 2018/19 Championship to gain promotion to the Gallagher Premiership. He achieved his first caps for the England senior team in this year’s Six Nations championship.”

Kidney said: “I know that alongside his contributions for London Irish, Ollie as a person will always be remembered fondly by everyone at the club and our supporters too. I have learned a lot from Ollie as a person.

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“That is down to his personality and the hard work he has put in through the years to become the player that he is today, Leicester have gained a very valuable man on and off the field. I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Ollie and his family for their time and effort over the years and wish them well for the future.”

Hassell-Collins added: “A decision to leave a place like London Irish is never an easy one, they have provided me with more than I can put into words in my time here, but I feel the time is right for a new challenge.

“Throughout my years with Irish and to this day, I have always been surrounded by excellent coaches, staff and players and I want to thank them for playing a very important role in my journey. There is still a lot to play for this season and, rest assured, I will do my utmost to repay the work put in and play my part in the really important games coming up for London Irish.

“Finally, I want to thank the supporters of this very special club for their support of me and the team through good times and bad, and I am confident that they will be rewarded for their continued faith in the club very soon.”

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In a separate statement from Leicester, Hassell-Collins said: “It’s the biggest club in England, and hard to say no when they want to come and chat with you. It excites me a lot to be a part of the Leicester Tigers.

“I know some of the guys and am looking forward to being a part of the young group and what is a pretty crazy potential line-up in the backline. It’s a hell of a ground, Welford Road, and when you think about Leicester Tigers, you think about the stadium and crowd, how hostile it is. It’s exciting to know I’ll be on the home side of that.”

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