Former All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen believes that England may have made a mistake in replacing Eddie Jones just nine months out from the Rugby World Cup.
The 62-year-old was sacked by the Rugby Football Union following the team’s disappointing 2022, which saw them win just five of 12 matches.
Steve Borthwick has since taken over from Jones, signing a five-year contract which will take him to the end of the 2027 World Cup.
England’s most successful coach
“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’,” Hansen said.
“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.”
Jones and Hansen only went head-to-head twice while the Australian was in charge of the Red Rose.
In 2018, the All Blacks came from 15-0 down to edge past England at Twickenham before Jones got his revenge in the 2019 World Cup semi-final as his side stormed to a 19-7 triumph.
Their battles have therefore been few and far between but the ex-New Zealand head coach is looking forward to locking horns when Hansen’s World XV team takes on the Jones-led Barbarians next year.
“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.”
No return to coaching
Since leaving the All Blacks, Hansen has worked as a consultant with Toyota Verblitz but he is not seeking to return to full-time coaching.
“I’m not missing it,” the 63-year-old 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.”
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