Another blow for England as defence coach John Mitchell announces a return to the ranks of club rugby and leaves Eddie Jones's management team looking threadbare

Mitchell quits England for job at Wasps

John Mitchell is quitting England‘s management team to join the coaching set-up at Wasps. The New Zealander will sever ties with the national team after the autumn series and bring an end to three years as defence coach under Eddie Jones.

It will be Mitchell’s second spell at the Gallagher Premiership club after he worked there as an assistant coach during the 1999-2000 season.

“We’re thrilled to add John to the coaching group for this season,” said Wasps head coach Lee Blackett. “He brings a wealth of knowledge and will only improve our playing department. Once we knew John was available, we prioritised getting him back to Wasps.

“Finding somebody of John’s calibre at both an international and domestic level is rare. He fits the profile we have been looking for. His primary role will be to lead the attack, but his breadth of top-level experience will see him assist on a number of levels. He understands Wasps having worked here before and his passion for the club and improving our players shone through from the start.”

Mitchell quits England for job at Wasps

Mitchell with Eddie Jones at RWC 2019 (Getty)

Coaches moving to and fro is part of the landscape in sport but the merry-go-round seems to spin with frightening speed for England. It’s only a couple of months since Simon Amor stepped down after 16 months as attack coach following a poor showing by England in the Six Nations.

Skills coach Jason Ryles had been due to arrive for that championship but didn’t travel from Australia because of Covid-19 concerns. Ed Robinson took on the role instead but is now at Wasps, where he will renew acquaintance with Mitchell.

Jones filled in as England’s attack coach for their recent wins against USA and Canada. He has a reputation for being a hard taskmaster, expecting those working for him to put in a prodigious number of hours.

Ross Reynolds, lineout coach for Australia’s 2004 European tour when Jones was in charge, revealed they worked 165 days straight.

“We worked incredibly long hours,” he said in a biography of Jones. “You lost all context of weekends or public holidays. After games we’d be doing reviews and finishing up at 3 to 4am. You’d send him an email and get an answer straight back.”

Since Eddie Jones took the England job at the end of 2015, Paul Gustard, Steve Borthwick, Neal Hatley, Sam Vesty, Glen Ella, Rory Teague, Scott Wisemantel, Amor and Ryles have all come and gone. It’s difficult not to see a job at HQ as a poisoned chalice.

There is speculation that ex-Wales wing Mark Jones, who coached at Crusaders and is now at Worcester Warriors, is being lined up to replace Mitchell.

Wasps will be delighted to capture Mitchell, who was England’s forwards coach from 1997 to 2000 and later head coach of New Zealand and the USA.

The 57-year-old’s impressive coaching résumé also includes two stints at Sale Sharks. He was coaching the Bulls in South Africa when the chance to replace Gustard as England’s defence coach came up in 2018. Now it’s back to the drawing board for the Red Rose nation.

Wasps v Leicester

Wasps suffered a significant dip last season after reaching the Premiership final in 2019-20 (Getty Images)

Following news of Mitchell’s decision, Eddie Jones said: “I’d like to thank John for his hard work and dedication over the last four years. He will go with the best wishes from everyone in the England team. I’m sure he will do a great job in his new role at Wasps.”

In a statement, the RFU said they are in the process of finalising a contract for a new England attack coach and that the recruitment process for the defence coach role is well underway.

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