Collins back to boost Saints after frustrating spell on sidelines
Tom Collins' legs were desperate to get back on the field just four days after his latest operation - but his face told a different story.
The speedy wing suffered a fractured cheekbone is a hefty aerial collision in the Premiership Rugby Cup clash with Gloucester at Kingsholm on November 9.
Collins somehow managed to play on, even though the sight in his right eye was significantly impaired for the remainder of the game.
And when the match finished and the player tried to blow his nose, his face inflated rapidly.
It is not an injury for the faint-hearted but, as is often the case with teak-tough rugby players, Collins was in no mood to let it affect him too much.
"I had the operation on a Friday and was sort of back running on the Tuesday," he explained. "In a week, I was back out training, non-contact, running around.
"I could keep ticking over but it was frustrating because all I wanted to do was play but I was being held back by the medical staff because the bones weren't right to play.
"With a leg injury, you can't run and you get your head around not being able to play but when you've got an injury like this all you want to do is get out and do something.
"I'm looking forward to getting back and hopefully getting back in the team."
And after recovering as quickly as is possible, Collins is now ready to return against Timisoara Saracens on Saturday.
A small scar on his right cheek is the only visible remnant of a cheek fracture that could be heard in the Kingsholm press box.
"I went up for a high ball and got caught with an elbow on the side of the face, which broke my cheekbone," Collins said.
"I felt it, it felt like just a big knock and throughout the game my face started to swell up, I couldn't see much and then we finished the game and that's when I knew I'd done something to it.
"I had an X-ray and an operation, had some plates put in but I'm all back to normal now and feeling good.
"Hopefully we can get another good win this week and go into Worcester next Friday night with some momentum and playing well."
Collins is relishing this week's trip to Romania, which will provide a perfect opportunity for the Saints players to strengthen their bonds.
"It's just going to be like any away trip," he said. "I assume we'll go for a coffee and see what's around. I've never been there before.
"We'll take it as it comes and it's good because you end up rooming with different people and it's another chance to bond.
"We're not a new team but we've got a new strategy and new ways of playing and we need to keep building that."
So who will Collins be rooming with in Romania?
"I don't know yet," he said. "I'm normally with Hutch (Rory Hutchinson) or Grays (James Grayson).
"I don't know how they choose it - I think they go with who hangs around with who most.
"When you room with one of the big boys and they're snoring all night, you're up until 2am with your headphones on trying to get to sleep.
"I know Grays doesn't snore, I know Hutch doesn't snore so that's what you want.
"They normally pair two snorers together so they can just battle each other."
Collins always seems to be viewed as a young player at Saints.
But, now 24, he is far more senior than the likes of recent first-team inductees Ollie Sleightholme and Fraser Dingwall.
"I'm not young any more - I'm getting on," laughed the affable Collins.
"It's crazy because I'm in the oldies when we split in training. I'm only 24 but I feel like I've been around forever.
"This weekend will be a great experience for the younger lads.
"People like Ollie and Matt Worley are pushing each other this year and it pushes lads like me in sprinting, in the gym and in every area.
"It makes everyone better and hopefully it can help on the pitch."
Saints' youngsters have been a beacon of light amid a gloomy 2018 for the team as a whole.
"It's been a tough year for us," Collins said. "We work on things and then we let another thing go.
"It's like you're filling something up with water and there are holes so you try to fill it up and the water comes back out. It's a nightmare.
"We've tried to put things in place and once we get all those components in place and fix everything, we'll put a good performance together.
"It's about timing and if we can get confidence behind us, we'll realise as a group of players where we're at.
"We've got the players to do absolutely anything, we've got a quality bunch of lads and we just need to get some confidence and get the ball rolling.
"We've got to take it step by step and keep using games as a stepping stone and momentum booster."
The next step for Saints in Saturday's clash with Timisoara.
"We don't really know what to expect from them," Collins said.
"We do know they're going to be big boys and they're going to want to carry.
"There are going to be opportunities for us in attack and it's about nailing our jobs and building on last weekend's game because we had good parts in that game.
"We did lack some composure at times but if we can take the positives and build on them, we can come away with some momentum going into the Friday game at Worcester.
"It's a tough one to approach when you are favourites and everyone expects you to win, but it's about going and doing your job, not focusing on anything else.
"It's easy to go out there with complacency and end up not performing as you want to.
"For us, it's about doing our jobs and it's opportunity for me to get back into the side and show the coaches again what I can do and what I can offer.
"It's about trying to prove a point and trying to get everything click together."