Club members speak of their delight the day New Zealand star came to town.

When All Black legend Jerry Collins stepped off the Barnstaple coach for a reserve team match in Newton Abbot, jaws dropped around the world.

The rugby player, who died in a car accident in France in the early hours of this morning (Friday), was on holiday in Croyde in October 2007 following New Zealand’s exit from the World Cup the previous month.

At the time, club members spoke of their amazement at being joined by one of the world’s rugby greats.

The then chairman told Sky Sports: “Our director of rugby Kevin Squire happened to be sat in a café in Croyde and noticed that Jerry Collins happened to be sat in the same café.

“Kevin invited him down to the club house to which he accepted. He came in just like he was one of the regulars with us.”

Kevin added: “While we were in the clubhouse Jerry was saying ‘look I want a game tomorrow, can you fix me up with a game?’. So I said I’d love to but there is no way you can play for us because you’re not registered.

“He said, ‘yea I know that, I’m not bothered about that, what about the seconds or thirds?’.

“I said by all means play for our seconds but the lads will never believe us.”

Player Trevor Wayborn said: “We all sat in the Newton Abbot dressing room and he actually goes on the phone and calls up Dan Carter and says ‘you wouldn’t believe where I am today bro’.

“We said, ‘what would you like to do in the warm up’ and he said, ‘no different to you bro’.”

The Devon Merit Table match – played in October 2007 following the All Blacks’– was won by Barnstaple and made headlines around the world.

A few weeks later, Collins astonished the club again by sporting a pair of Barnstaple club socks while playing for the Barbarians against South Africa at Twickenham.

Kevin Squire said: “That was incredible for everyone connected with the club.

“It was a once in a lifetime thing and he wore his socks with pride and put the club on the map.

“He remains a friend of the club for ever.”