There was a time Nick Evans watched the All Blacks from the stands, catching up with former teammates afterwards, and the ifs, buts and maybes of his fleeting international career flooded back.

He did, after all, move north after 16 tests, just 27 at the time.

"There were probably a couple of years when I first came over, especially watching the autumn [November] internationals, where it was difficult."

Even now, having pulled the pin 18 months ago on a 17-year professional career that spanned seven teams and saw him become the highest-scoring overseas player in English history, Evans struggles to suppress similar feelings at Harlequins.


"I still think I can mix in with the boys out there," says the 38-year-old first five-eighths, who in more than 200 matches for Quins scaled the peaks of the European game. "I'm not averse to making it rain at times if I have to jump into an attack drill but then I run into a tighthead prop and I think I'm pretty happy I retired.

"I miss game days. It's funny, you listen to old guys and watch a bit of NFL stuff and they'd go back in a second. If I got into some half-decent shape, I would go back, but I had my time and pretty much did everything I'd wanted to do.

"Now I can fully commit to the coaching side of it. I managed to end on my own terms. I wasn't forced out by injury so now I'm learning a trade I'm new at.

"I'm still a novice in terms of coaching, so it's exciting to hopefully build my way up to a position like my rugby was."

Immediately after calling time, Evans assumed responsibility for skills and off the ball vision at Quins, working with everyone from the injured through to academy players, and under former England defence coach Paul Gustard with the senior team.

On this sunny day at Quins' Surrey Sports Park base in Guildford, he discusses positional play at length with recently dropped England fullback Mike Brown.

Earlier, Evans brought energy to innovative skill games.

"It's made me think about the game a bit differently from what I'm used to, especially defensively."

Outside those duties, Evans is now content to be an All Blacks fan. But given his new role, he also sits back to analyse how, where and why Steve Hansen's men constantly evolve.

"They've had a few close games recently. They're comeback kings, but they're in a good place.

"You've got to find a way to win. If we were 12 points down with five minutes left, guys here would be a little bit nervous and go into their shells. You don't see that from New Zealand teams, the All Blacks especially. That's something we can definitely learn from up here.

"I think they're trying things; putting themselves under as much pressure as they can. Whether that be how they're training leading up to games or pressing the threshold of where they can actually play the game."

On this front, Evans points to experiments with the lack of kicking in the Rugby Championship, and different attacking shapes.

"It's the time to try things. I know they're coming into a World Cup soon but they've got to be seeing what works and what doesn't to push their game forward."

Evans will be among those at Twickenham tomorrow when England host the All Blacks in a highly-anticipated match the RFU could have sold out 20 times over.

He expects England to bring their typical strengths - set piece, defence, and tactical kicking - and before the team was named correctly predicted Eddie Jones would start Owen Farrell, not George Ford, at first-five.

"It will be interesting to see how New Zealand combats that. Whether they choose to kick more in the autumn series to negate that and compare themselves to probably the best territorial teams in the world in Ireland and England.

"It's one England are probably looking forward to the most to see where they are at against the world champions."

No stranger to intense competition at first-five, having played second fiddle to Dan Carter during his New Zealand career, Evans has no doubts about the All Blacks pecking order, noting switching between roles hasn't helped Damian McKenzie's development.

"For me, I think he's probably suited to the back three division in terms of the influence he can have on the game. He's a great bench player. He covers that jack of all trades.

"I've been really impressed with Richie Mo'unga at the Crusaders. I know people say he's got a Rolls-Royce forward pack but so do the All Blacks, so he's definitely No 2 for me. He's played good cameos and put his hand up.

"I think Beauden Barrett is still No 1. He's got a bit to work on. Goal kicking is an obvious one - maybe a bit more tactical kicking as well. But look at what he can do. He's something special. He's got good organisation. That's something that's probably underrated from Beauden.

"It wasn't so long ago, people were saying there wasn't much depth at 10, so it doesn't take long."

Following New Zealand Rugby's groundbreaking partnership with Harlequins, announced in March, Evans spent time with the Highlanders and Chiefs.

Down south, he met with Aaron Mauger and coach development manager Bruce Blair. In Hamilton, Tabai Matson and Wayne Smith shared insights.

"It was great to just sit there and listen," he says of Smith, the professor. "It felt a bit like Yoda and Luke Skywalker - not that he looks like Yoda - but just the information I was getting from him."

Chiefs physiotherapist Katherine Rottier has also visited Quins, and the New Zealand men's sevens team trained there; two more examples of the reciprocal arrangement which will see the All Blacks use facilities ahead of their match at Twickenham.

"It's only in its infancy at the moment. I don't think you'll see a flurry of players coming over and going back straight away.

"Hopefully, in the future, we can build a really good relationship where guys can to and fro and ideas are passed on and people develop.

"People can develop up here. I certainly did. It's great to see different environments and, likewise, how good would it be for an 18-year-old English guy to go to New Zealand and play a bit of rugby, and share that influence upon returning? Hopefully that's the way we can do it."

Eleven years in London has flown by for the once silky Highlanders and Blues playmaker.

Now with three children to consider, Evans is pondering his next move. He grew up on boats, at beaches, and ultimately wants his kids to savour the adventure playground that is New Zealand's backyard.

"I'd love to get the best out of me and guys here and then hopefully start working my way back home and give back to New Zealand. That's where it all started.

"I want to share the ideas I've learnt. I've got a good base of knowledge, so it would be great to share that with whichever team I end up with down there."