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The fixture that Eddie Jones never wants to see England play again

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Ex-England boss Eddie Jones exited Twickenham with a Sunday evening parting shot for the RFU. During his time in charge and before he took over from Stuart Lancaster for the 2016 Six Nations, the rugby authorities would annually pencil in an end-of-season match at HQ between England and the Barbarians.

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This tradition must have privately grated with Jones because, on the back of leading the Barbarians to their 48-42 Killik Cup victory over Steve Hansen’s World XV in a 14-try thriller, he took issue with the idea of England playing the Baa-Baas.

It was June last year when such a match-up was last held, Jones’ England charges getting humiliated 52-21 by a heavily influenced Barbarians side coached by Fabien Galthie.

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The Barbarians experience is second to none | Being Barbarians

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The Barbarians experience is second to none | Being Barbarians

That was very much an understrength England selection as the match took place on the same weekend at the Gallagher Premiership final between Saracens and Leicester, and numerous other Test squad front-liners were also absent as Jones rested them ahead of the tour to Australia.

It left his second-string England selection badly beaten and if that traditional fixture is ever to be revived against the Baa-Baas, Jones wants the RFU to start being more honest about it. “I can speak as a former England coach – I don’t think England should play the Barbarians unless it is a younger team.

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“At this time (of the year), you can never pick the England team so it shouldn’t be called England. It should be called England President’s 15 or something like that. Playing against the Barbarians is a great idea but to try to sell it as England is not honest it’s not honest.”

Jones would very much prefer the idea of Sunday’s Baa-Baas versus World XV concept being repeated given the calibre of crowd it attracted compared to your typical England game.

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“Having a festival game like this at the end of the season, when it is all done and dusted, you had 33,000 and just walking around the crowd, I reckon 80 per cent were young kids.

“If we can inspire 20 per cent of those kids to play rugby, be rugby followers, then it is such a great vehicle to drive the game forward and it was on free-to-air TV, so a lot more people have got access to watch it. This is about building almost the culture of rugby, a game like this.”

Whereas 11 months ago he was left mugged as the England boss by Galthie’s far superior Barbarians, Jones basked in his role reversal this past week and was beaming that he has now also coached the world’s most famous invitational club to a Twickenham victory with a performance that very much exited.

“We wanted to win but we wanted to play good rugby. I felt the first half the quality of rugby was exceptional from both teams. Second half with the heat both teams got a little bit tired, but the first half particularly was well worth the price of a ticket,” he said.

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What did it feel like to be coaching back at Twickenham just six months after his final match in charge of England? “Fantastic. Sun shining, no overcoat on, no scarf on, just a shirt. Fantastic. Loved it.”

As for the memories of English Rugby HQ that his return stirred, he said: “Just good ones. Seven years here, it’s the longest I have ever coached a team. I loved every minute of coaching here, loved every minute of coming back.”

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