John Mitchell: I’m emotively connected to England


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England’s Kiwi defence coach John Mitchell discusses systems with Fijian-born wing Joe Cokanasiga.


Globetrotting rugby coach John Mitchell is driven more by his emotional connections to England than his New Zealand heritage.

The former All Blacks captain and coach has just started his second stint on the England management, joining as defence coach under their Australian head coach Eddie Jones.

Mitchell’s comments come as Agustin Pichot, the Argentine vice-chairman of World Rugby, again voiced his disapproval at the amount of player movement between national teams.

According to his figures, Scotland were top with 46.3 per cent of their players foreign-born, England, Ireland and Wales were about 25 per cent, New Zealand were at 12.5 per cent and Argentina were bottom alongside South Africa on zero.

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England also have a multinational coaching team. There are just two Englishmen among the five main coaches, and only Steve Borthwick is both English-born and raised.

Mitchell, who has coached in New Zealand, Australia, England, South Africa and the United States, made no secret of where his loyalties lie at this stage of his career.

“I haven’t coached in New Zealand for 15 years and haven’t lived there for 15 years. While I am naturally proud of that heritage, it is not the thing that drives me the most,” Mitchell told The Times.

“To get back and be part of England, it doesn’t feel like just a job, I feel emotively connected, I think that comes from the past.

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“When I walked back into the English changing room, on the Friday before the South Africa game (at Twickenham) it had been 18 years since I’d been in that room. I was quite overwhelmed; immediately you had an emotional connection.”

Mitchell retold tales of his first experience in the English coaching setup under Sir Clive Woodward. The squad were sworn at while training in Scotland and he was spat on by a Welsh supporter at halftime during a test.

“I don’t think too many people like us as England do they?” he says, adding it’s important to understand the mentality of England’s place in the rugby world.

“When you don’t get it right you just have to look at the satisfaction and the gloating on the other side to realise how important it is.

“It’s important to understand that and realise we can actually reverse that in terms of our own thinking. I still think there’s a place for you to realise how much it means — and the fact you hate coming second to somebody that you dislike.”

– Stuff







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