Eddie Jones made a successful return to Twickenham in his first appearance in the home of English rugby since his sacking as the country’s international head coach in December.
Jones received his marching orders from the RFU last year but was back in his old office to lead the barbarians against a World XV led by his old nemesis Steve Hansen.
The two top-flight coaches drank a bottle of red wine in the encounter and it is Jones who will drink for free after the Barbarians win an entertaining encounter.
Compared to that game last year, Jones managed an England side humiliated by the Barbarians, for whom former Saracens and England lock George Kruis made a conversion. But the man who is now Australia’s head coach was luckier in 2023 and emerged victorious.
There was a glittering array of true rugby superstars on both sides. Alun Wyn Jones, the world’s all-time all-cap who announced his retirement from the national team last week, captained his eponymous Eddie Jones’ Barbarians side.
Eddie Jones celebrated a successful return to Twickenham on Sunday as his Barbarians side defeated World XV
Seta Tamanivalu scored two draws for the Barbarians in a star-studded game
The World XV defensive line, which included Charles Piutau, Israel Folau, Semi Radradra and Ngani Laumape, was delicious on paper and it proved it.
Former Australian star Folau’s presence at Twickenham was controversial as he had previously said gay people would go to hell if they didn’t repent of their sins.
Folau was booed when he touched the ball and scored a try from a disappointing Twickenham crowd in the first half. The RFU responded to his inclusion at their venue by reaffirming their support for the LGBTQ+ community in matchday programming. They also raised the Pride flag on the ground.
Fans showed their anger at Folau’s performance by mocking him as he touched the ball, but there was also admiration for his undoubted talent as he pulled off an incredible goal throw. Unsurprisingly, both teams threw caution overboard to entertain.
There were nine tries in the first 40 games – five came from the Barbarians and four for the World XV.
Seemingly forgotten by England, Newcastle’s flying winger Adam Radwan scored the Barbarians’ opener from an attack – certainly the first time he has scored from such a position.
Semi Radradra was rightfully named Player of the Match after a stunning performance
Adam Radwan, whom England seem to have forgotten, scored the first goal for Jones’ men
Tevita Li, Seta Tamanivalu, Stephan Lewies and Gareth Anscombe also crossed for the Barbarians.
Bristol’s France-bound Fijian Radradra excelled in World XV, treating opposing defenders with contempt, carrying the ball in one hand and throwing the ball with ease.
He was the deserved player of the game.
Seb Negri, Sbu Nkosi, Api Ratuniyarawa and Folau were their scorers.
Alun Wyn Jones, whose stellar career in Wales is now over, appeared to be enjoying himself.
He conceded an Anscombe flange kick at the beginning and threw the ball casually out of the back of his hand with a jerk at the beginning of the second half. A tense South Africa international, Nkosi, also failed to make a second attempt before half-time as he acrobatically vaulted to the finish line.
It was a real pleasure to watch Radradra, who the evidence suggests will wreak havoc at the World Cup in Fiji later this year. He cleaned and a World XV attempt looked certain, but Piutau overtook as the two former Bristol men attempted to unify.
Even though nothing mattered in the encounter, Piutau’s anger at his mistake was evident.
Try: Radwan, Li, Tamanivalu (2), Lewies, Anscombe, Hougaard, Johnson
Disadvantages: Anscombe (4)
Try: Negri, Nkosi (2), Ratuniyarawa, Folau, Hall
Disadvantages: Hastings (4) Patchell (2)
Referee: Tom Foley (RFU)
Starman: Semi Radradra (World XV)
Things soon got worse when Tamanivalu went over the line and shoved the ball up for Barbarians substitute Francois Hougaard, who scored the first try of the second half.
Australia Maverick fly-half Quade Cooper continued the fun in the sun with a great Barbarians pass behind his body. After a week of off-field friendships and the occasional beer, both teams were, unsurprisingly, exhausted. Bryn Hall closed the gap on World XV as the game went from end to end.
Folau’s political views may be vile, but his rugby skills remain undisputed. He is a wonderfully balanced runner and a top athlete.
After his Australia contract was terminated in 2019, he is now eligible to play for Tonga and will do so at the World Cup in the same team as Piutau.
Folau sliced through the Barbarian defenses like a hot knife through butter and was booed even more as he ran down the wing.
Even his brilliance couldn’t stop the barbarians.
Sam Johnson crossed the finish line and the great Alun Wyn Jones made the conversion. He took his time, but the attempt didn’t go well.
Alun Wyn Jones, the world’s all-time all-time capper, made the move for the Barbarians after announcing his retirement last week
At the other end, Nkosi grabbed his second goal and Rhys Patchell converted to take the point with five minutes remaining.
But Tamanivalu provided the decisive goal and it was fitting that the game ended with Alun Wyn Jones in the centre.
He took another conversion attempt to applause from the Twickenham crowd and although he missed for the second time it was still fitting recognition for one of the game’s all-time greats.
Eddie Jones beamed on the sidelines. He’s a man who likes to win and that win would certainly have meant a lot considering where he came from.