Wellington - Former All Black Jerry Collins, killed in a car crash in France, was remembered by the world rugby fraternity Saturday as a bone crusher with a big heart.
Collins, 34, and his partner Alana Madill died instantly on Friday in the crash in southern France and their three-month-old daughter Ayla is in a critical condition in hospital.
Known as the "human wrecking ball" who played with a smile on his face, Collins played 48 Tests, including three as captain.
He ended his international career to play in Europe and Japan after New Zealand lost to France in the 2007 Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.
"One of the toughest men to play our game. Tried to tackle him in 2000 and ended up with a broken rib. RIP," former Scotland international Gregor Townsend said as rugby greats around the world tweeted their memories.
"Very sad news. Notably one of the toughest opponents I had the pleasure playing against. RIP Jerry Collins," said Wallaby Kurtley Beale.
"May Jerry Collins and his wife rest in peace. One of the toughest AB's to have played against," echoed former Springbok captain John Smit.
French legend Thierry Dusautoir and Ireland great Brian O'Driscoll also expressed their sympathy as did whistleblower Nigel Owens who remembered Collins as "a great player and always a pleasure to referee".
The Samoan-born Collins, with his reputation as an enforcer on the field and friend to all off it, was easily distinguishable for the way he bleached the top of his hair for a "pint of Guinness" look.
He stood 1.91m (six-foot-three), weighed 107kg and boasted biceps with a 52cm circumference
The New Zealand Rugby Union described him as "one of the toughest and most uncompromising forwards to ever play for the All Blacks and his ferocious tackling and intimidating presence made him feared by every opponent."
But All Blacks manager Darren Shand recalled the softer side of Collins and how he stunned even those closest to him when, after captaining the All Blacks against Argentina in 2006, he gave his after match speech "in fluent Spanish, and all the Argentines understood every single word".
Collins close friend and former All Black Alama Ieremia told Radio Sport that plans were under way to have the bodies taken to New Zealand for what would be a very big funeral.
"There's a couple of airlines that are trying to help out with the situation. There's a few people who have been co-ordinating the preparation and the funeral," Ieremia said.