When England take on Ireland at Twickenham, they’ll do so with a great friend of mine on their coaching staff.

As a player with Munster and Ireland, Felix Jones’s reputation always preceded him. He’s a few years older than me, so becoming such close mates with someone I’d always looked up to as a player was strange and brilliant at the same time. There was nobody who didn’t have the same respect or opinion of Felix. He was totally invested in getting the best out of himself and doing everything humanly possible to make the most of his career. You could say he had a chip on his shoulder in some respects, and he used that to push himself to extreme lengths.

Felix became the go-to man for coaches when they wanted an exemplar of attitude, of someone who would give everything and do all the small things right. Being on the other side of it now, he might wish he’d been able to switch off at times, because you need that release in rugby, but that’s just who he was. It led to a great career, but he would have had a whole lot more caps if he hadn’t been forced to retire at just 28.

It was in October 2015 that we played Glasgow, and Felix, who was at fullback, hurt his neck quite badly during the match. Back in the house afterwards, he couldn’t move his neck, but that’s not uncommon after a match. A couple of weeks later, he suggested that we go and grab some lunch in Dublin, which was a bit unlike him. He told me over food that the injury was serious enough that he was being forced to retire.

The news properly upset me. This was someone I’d strived to emulate in my approach to the game. It was very tough for him. He was retiring on 90 Munster appearances and 13 Ireland caps, but typically of Felix, he threw himself straight into coaching. His first role was an unofficial one with the province. He’d be in and around the building all week, taking different sessions. We could see as players that he was being lined up for something because he was so well respected. Rassie Erasmus arriving as Director of Rugby in 2016 accelerated things for him.

Rassie saw massive value in Felix and brought him straight into the senior coaching group as a backs coach. It was the start of a new chapter in his career that would lead to two World Cup triumphs in a short space of time. I remember saying to Felix early on: “You didn’t get what you deserved from your playing career, but I think you’ll get what you deserve from your coaching career.” That played out way more accurately than I could even have imagined.

Things are going to work out if you keep putting your best foot forward every day of your life. You might miss out on a number of opportunities you thought were for you, but you’ll ultimately find the right path. That’s what happened with Felix.

The blitz defence the world came to know so well from the Springboks was the exact same thing Rassie and Jacques Nienaber implemented in their short time with us at Munster. Jacques was in charge of defence, and he saw it as a longer-term project, so he took all the pressure off us by simply saying: ‘Listen, lads, absolutely fly off the line in defence, no matter what. The only problem I have is if you don’t fly off the line.’

Myself and Keith Earls were chatting to Jacques about different scenarios. Suppose the opposition had a six-on-two and we were under savage pressure, what would we do then? Expecting him to say, ‘Obviously don’t rush up in that case’. But no, he just smiled and said, ‘Keep flying off the line, boys’. He wasn’t being facetious: he was trying to drill that message into us. In his view, you may make a mistake once or twice with the blitz defence, but in terms of net result - over a match or a season - you’re going to get tries off the back of it. We ended up having an unbelievable record that year, losing only three matches.

Felix was always going to be in demand as a defence coach after transitioning to that role so successfully with the Boks, so here he is today with England. It’s unreasonable to expect England to mimic the Boks blitz defence overnight: they don’t have the same athletes South Africa do. They don’t have the brute force in the collisions that South Africa do. The Springboks would stop momentum - or even better, gain momentum - in defensive sets. I think England could do it in patches, but I don’t know if they’ve got the players. When I played against England in the past, it was a squad containing players from a peak Saracens side, a few serious Exeter players, some hardy Leicester guys. In essence, a really intimidating team to play against. They’re in a difficult spot now because they’re still waiting for the next world-class players to come through.

I would never write England off at Twickenham. It absolutely doesn’t feel like a match where the end result will be relatively one-sided like it was for Ireland against Wales, but they’ll need so many different factors to align so that, if they’re within a score in the last five or ten minutes, anything is possible. But that’s a very big ask when they’re up against an Irish squad that is quite clearly superior.

The smart money is on a second Grand Slam for Ireland come the end of the campaign. As a narrative, that’s motivational gold for Steve Borthwick and his team. My debut was against England, at a time when they were going not just for a Grand Slam but the record for most consecutive Test victories. You’d better believe that was all we talked about all week. It worked for us then.

Ireland won’t be lifting the Grand Slam in Twickenham, with Scotland still to come, but England would love to wreck that party at home. Ireland are flying high, while serious questions are being asked of England, so that’s a big driver for a really emotional performance. If they lean on it too much, then they could go over the edge and make mistakes - get yellow or red cards - but if they get the emotional pitch just right, they could prove to be a dangerous team for Ireland to play against.