Steve Hansen is relishing the prospect of another meeting with familiar foe and ‘good rugby man’ Eddie Jones next summer.
The 63-year-old, who lifted the 2015 Rugby World Cup as New Zealand’s head coach, will head up the World XV which will face Jones’ Barbarians side at Twickenham on Sunday 28 May.
It will be Jones’ first return to HQ in a coaching capacity since he was relieved of his duties with England earlier this month.
Having squared off against the 62-year-old Australian numerous times already throughout his career, Hansen believes Jones will leave no stone unturned in his preparations to create an unmissable spectacle of rugby.
“You relish every chance to go against Eddie,” he said. “We’ve known each other for a long, long time and he’s a good rugby man.
“He cares about the game a lot, and I consider myself someone who cares about the game too. It’s an opportunity to be able to be part of something that could be quite special on the day.
“With Eddie, you’ve got to expect the unexpected, because one of his great attributes is his ability to analyse the opposition and set traps for them.
“He’s a great planner, that’s why he’s been so successful with so many sides in different World Cups, having won one with South Africa.
“Obviously he was building towards the one in 2023, and he’s now not going to be there, which is unfortunate for him – but being the man that he is, he’ll move on quickly and he’ll still want England to do well.
“He’ll want to come to Twickenham [with the Barbarians] come the end of May and play a good brand of footy, and he’ll want to win too, because he’s a pretty competitive bloke.”
Hansen and Jones last locked horns in the 2019 Rugby World Cup semi-finals, when the Red Rose won 19-7 in Yokohama to progress into the final against eventual champions South Africa.
As things stand, both Jones and Hansen will be watching the action unfold at next year’s Rugby World Cup in France from the stands rather than the coaching boxes.
But Hansen admits his eyebrows were raised when he heard England had parted company with Jones so close to rugby’s showpiece tournament.
He said: “It was pretty surprising that they would replace him now, when all along Eddie’s been saying ‘look, this is what we’re building for.’
“He’s been their most successful coach in history. Some might say that Clive [Woodward] is because he won a World Cup – however the record speaks for itself, doesn’t it?
“I know Eddie had a big focus on the World Cup and that’s probably what in the end cost him, because he didn’t have such a good Autumn and people were frustrated by that.
“But obviously, it’s their business and they’ve got to do what they think is right. Eddie’s moved on, so the rest of us can too.”
Since leaving his post as New Zealand head coach, Hansen has been working as a consultant with Japanese Top League outfit Toyota Verblitz.
And while he cannot wait to return to Twickenham for what is set to be an epic clash between the Baa-baas and World XV, he is not looking to make a return to frontline coaching on the international stage for the time being.
“I’m not missing it,” he added. “I love what I do at Toyota Verblitz. They’re a great club and helping the young coaches through that system, and trying to make the whole organisation even more professional than it is, is a great challenge.
“You do miss the camaraderie of leading a team, and the big occasions like playing at places like Twickenham, so you never say never, but it would have to be a pretty amazing opportunity.
“I owe my family a lot of time. They sacrificed a lot over a long period of time. So, you never say never, but we’ll wait and see what happens.
“The [Baa-baas vs World XV] game demands a freer approach. We want the players to enjoy themselves, and we want the crowd to come and see something spectacular.
“We’ll all want to win. There’s a competitive spirit in every athlete and coach, but if we fill the stadium up – which I’m sure we will do – we want people to go away saying what a great game of footy it was.”
General admission tickets for Barbarian F.C. vs World XV are on sale now from www.ticketmaster.co.uk/barbarians at the early-bird price of just £25* for Adults and £15* for Under-16s.